What Every Patient Should Expect from their Primary Care Provider

Patient Expectations for Primary Care Providers

Headshot of Bob Waddell

Bob Waddell

January 31, 2024

Having a reliable primary care provider (PCP) is a crucial component to helping patients stay healthy. They are the first point of contact for any health concerns and play an integral role in promoting overall wellness. However, not all PCPs are created equal. Patients should have certain expectations when it comes to their healthcare experience, from clear communication to prompt follow-up.

Patients traditionally have such low expectations for what their provider relationship should be, that it can get lost in the shuffle of importance when it comes to priorities of care. Let's explore what every patient should expect from their PCP and why these expectations matter for better health outcomes.

An individual's PCP is usually a family physician, internist, or pediatrician. The PCP is the health care professional who knows the patient best and provides continuous care throughout the individual's lifetime. The PCP is responsible for diagnosing and treating many common medical problems and can also provide referrals to specialists when needed.

It is important for patients to establish a good relationship with their PCP. This means being honest about their medical history and any symptoms they are experiencing. It is also important to keep their PCP up to date on any changes in their health or medications they are taking. Patients should feel comfortable asking their PCP any questions in regard to their health.

A good PCP will provide comprehensive care and focus on preventive medicine. They will take the time to get to know their patients and develop a treatment plan that meets the individual's needs. Patients should expect their PCP to be available for appointments when needed and to provide timely follow-up after visits.

There are many types of primary care services that patients should expect from their provider. These services can be divided into three main categories: medical care, preventive care, and health maintenance.

- Medical care is the treatment of illness and injury. This can include everything from diagnosing a condition to prescribing medication or surgery.

- Preventive care is measures taken to prevent illness or injury. This can include things like vaccinations, screenings, and lifestyle counseling.

- Health maintenance is the ongoing management of chronic conditions. This can involve things like monitoring vital signs, managing medications, and making lifestyle changes.

What Patients Should Expect from Their Primary Care Provider

A comprehensive approach to health care: The PCP will take into account all aspects of a patient's health, including physical, mental, and emotional well-being. They will also consider any social or environmental factors that may also impact their health.

An individualized treatment plan: The PCP will develop a plan that is tailored specifically for the patient based on their unique situation and needs. This plan may include lifestyle changes, medication, and other treatments.

Continuity of care: The PCP will provide ongoing care and support throughout the course of any treatment. They will also keep track of the patient’s progress and make any necessary adjustments to their plan along the way.

Coordination with other providers: If the patient sees multiple providers for different health concerns, the PCP will work with them to ensure that all care is coordinated to meet overall health goals.

Open communication: The PCP should be someone the patient can feel comfortable talking to about sensitive topics such as sexual health, substance use, mental health, and more. The better relationship a patient has with their PCP, the easier these sensitive topics will be to discuss.

Tips for Communicating with a Primary Care Provider

It is important for patients to seek and establish a good relationship with their PCP. After all, they are the ones they will be seeing for routine checkups and any health concerns that may arise. Here are some tips for communicating effectively with a PCP:

- Be honest about symptoms and medical history. This will help them provide the best possible care.

- Ask questions! If something doesn’t make sense, be sure to ask for clarification.

- Keep track of medications and allergies, and make sure to share this information with the PCP.

- Try to arrive on time or early for a scheduled appointment. This could allow more time to talk with the PCP and address all concerns.

How to Find the Right PCP

There are a few things to consider when looking for a new PCP. Consumers want to find someone who is accepting new patients, takes their insurance, and is conveniently located. But those are just table stakes. Those aren’t defining characteristics for who is the best fit for their needs and preferences.

Consumers also want to make sure that the PCP they choose is a good fit for them personally. This means finding someone whose personality and bedside manner you'll be comfortable with. It is also important to find a PCP who is open to working with them on their health goals.

MD MatchUp’s Patient+Provider Predictive Matching™ platform uses that kind of criteria to help consumers find compatible providers in a matter of seconds in your network.

The Final Word

Primary care providers play an essential role in helping patients manage their health and wellbeing. Every patient should expect to receive quality care from a provider who is knowledgeable about their medical history, understands their unique needs, listens to them without judgement, and provides guidance on making the best decisions for themselves.

Everyone has different needs and preferences, but in the end should have an incrementally higher expectation of what their provider relationship offers them than what they’ve had in the past. Ultimately, seeking and establishing a positive relationship with a new PCP is key to patients getting the most out of their healthcare experience.