Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s (BCBSNE) medical directors Dr. Victoria Hall, Dr. Elizabeth Noordhoek and Dr. Cindy Gubbels contributed their insight to help individuals choose a primary care provider (PCP).

A PCP acts as a person’s medical home base and aims to provide long-term and preventive care, routine checkups, and referrals to specialists as needed. Internal medicine providers treat adults only, pediatricians treat children (generally up to age 21), and family practice providers care for all ages. Additionally, OB-GYN providers often give primary care to female patients.

“Choosing a PCP is an important but sometimes daunting task,” said Noordhoek. “One of the first decisions is which kind to choose.”

Once an individual selects the type of care, the next step is to construct a list of potential providers who are in-network for their insurance plan. Factors to consider include office location and hours, if appointments are available, a preferred gender, and whether they are accepting new patients. Other, more specific items, such as hospital affiliations, languages spoken, number of years in practice, individual or group practice, and lab/X-rays performed on site, can help narrow down the initial options.

“It’s beneficial to ask friends, family and/or co-workers for recommendations,” Gubbels said. “Also, check to make sure the office hours fit your schedule.”

After the list is complete, a person can verify a provider’s background by checking the American Board of Medical Specialties website for their active board certification. To find any disciplinary action against a provider, search the state in the medical board website. Checking the internet for online reviews may be helpful to assess staff friendliness or wait times but is often not reliable when assessing a provider’s expertise or experience.

Now, an individual is ready to schedule their first appointment. They should bring information pertaining to their medical and family histories, medications, and allergies and a list of any previous preventive interventions, such as immunizations and colonoscopy and mammogram results. This will move the initial process along easier.

Once all is said and done, it’s important to check in with yourself. Were you comfortable with your provider? Was enough time scheduled to cover your health history and any questions? Was the staff and provider respectful to you and each other? Was the office organized and did your appointment happen close to the scheduled time?

“Providers all have different personalities, just like their patients,” says Hall. “If you did not feel it was a good fit, you can choose to seek a second opinion.”

Your health is important, so take the time to research and utilize your resources in order to find the best PCP for your needs.

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