Tips for Choosing Your Primary Care Provider (PCP)

What is a PCP? Why do you need one? And how do you find the one that’s right for you? We’ve got some tips to help you.

August 22, 2016 | HF Healthy Living Team

A primary care provider, or PCP, is your main provider. A PCP is often a medical doctor, but he or she might also be a physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or other medical professional.

Your PCP will help you with most of your non-emergency health needs. You will visit your PCP for your annual checkups, when you’re sick, to help you manage a health condition, or if you need a referral or recommendation for a specialist. Your PCP can also help you to stay healthy with a diet or fitness plan, prescribe and help you manage your medicines, give you the recommended screenings and tests you may need, and help answer any questions you may have.

Just as with your child’s doctor, your PCP is an important person when it comes to getting and staying healthy. So consider the following questions carefully. The answers can help you make the right choice for you.

The Provider

  • If you have health insurance, does the provider or medical practice accept it? If you don’t have insurance, what are the provider’s fees?
  • Are there online reviews of the provider? If so, are they generally good?
  • Is the provider friendly and informative?
  • Does the provider take the time to listen to your concerns and answer your questions?

Office Hours and Location

  • Is the provider’s office convenient to where you live or work?
  • Is the provider’s office close to a subway station or other public transportation?
  • If you have to drive, is parking nearby? Is there enough parking? Is the parking free or is there a cost?
  • If you have a job, are the provider’s office hours convenient to your work schedule? If not, does the provider offer evening or weekend hours?
  • Does the provider offer same-day or sick appointments?

Office Staff
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Office Staff and Waiting Room

  • Is the office staff helpful and friendly?
  • Is the office staff clear about what to expect from the visit, how to fill out forms, and what estimated costs will be, if any?
  • Is the waiting room clean and inviting?
  • How long is the typical wait before you can see the provider?


  • Is it easy to reach the provider by phone, and does the provider return your phone calls in a timely manner?
  • How does the provider or the office staff follow up with test results, referrals, or billing?
  • Does the provider offer phone consultations for those times you may not be able to get to the office? If the provider is unavailable, is there another provider or nurse who can take your call?
  • If it’s a group practice and your provider is unavailable, is there another provider available to see you?
  • Are the paperwork, prescriptions, and other instructions you receive easy to understand?

Remember: if the provider you choose isn’t right for you, talk to him or her to see whether your concerns can be addressed. If they cannot, use it as a chance to find another provider who may be a better fit. You have options.


© 2016 HF Management Services, LLC.

Healthfirst is the brand name used for products and services provided by one or more of the Healthfirst group of affiliated companies.

This health information or program is for educational purposes only and not intended to treat, diagnose, or act as a substitute for medical advice from your provider. Consult your healthcare provider and always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.

“Choosing a primary care provider,” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Updated August 14, 2015.

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