Proactive primary care is an essential factor in the health of seniors. In fact, studies show that U.S. states with higher ratios of primary care providers (PCPs) to members of the population had fewer cases of death by heart disease, cancer, stroke, and more.

“Patients used to only seek medical care during illnesses or injuries,” explains Lauren Petry, a Nurse Practitioner with EmpowerMe Wellness. “Healthcare is changing focus to preventive care — addressing potential risks before they become a serious problem.”

But if one hasn’t had a primary care visit in some time or is switching medical providers, finding the right PCP can be challenging. What is primary care anyway? And what are the most important characteristics of a PCP?

What is Primary Care?

‍Primary care providers are front-line medical providers such as medical doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician’s assistants. They address new illnesses or injuries, treat chronic illnesses such as diabetes or high blood pressure, provide screenings to help prevent disease advancement, and help coordinate care with other specialists. Simply put, while a specialist like a cardiologist or pulmonologist has specialized training and education related to a specific area of expertise, a PCP is knowledgeable about the whole body and mind.

‍PCPs are the “gatekeepers” to maintaining one’s health and preventing further complications. One of the biggest benefits of primary care is that it has the potential to lower the total cost of one’s healthcare. Most insurance plans, including Medicare, include yearly wellness check-ups at no cost to the patient. Annual visits to a PCP mean that warning signs can be caught earlier, saving one the time and cost of treating a condition that has gotten out of hand.

What to Look for in a Primary Care Provider

There are many criteria to consider when choosing a primary care provider. How is their “bedside manner”? Would it be best if the provider spoke languages other than English? How important is travel distance? Choosing a PCP can quickly feel overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help determine the right provider:

  1. Find an accessible medical office

Even if you only visit the office once a year, it is important to be able to reliably access your provider’s office. Seniors in particular should consider transportation options to and from appointments. Research possible shuttles to the office or see if the medical providers make house calls.

  1. Assess the medical office’s customer service

Is the staff who answers the phone friendly? Do they answer questions in a timely and respectful manner? If not, it might be better to find another office.

  1. Gather recommendations from family, friends, or neighbors

Referrals from others are a great way to find a new medical provider! The knowledge that close friends and family trust the PCP can put one’s mind at ease.

  1. Research PCPs that are well-versed in senior care

There are different types of PCPs, such as providers in a family practice, internal medicine, or general practice. All should have a robust knowledge of how to care for the aging body. However, some might be more familiar with senior care than others – do a little research and find out!

  1. Find a PCP with the right personality

It’s important to find a trustworthy provider. If an appointment doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to try again with someone different! Branching out and trying new providers until the right one is found is essential. Each provider has their own distinct bedside manner, and each patient has preferences for how medical information is communicated. It is worth the extra legwork to find a PCP whose personality aligns with the patient.

Primary care is vital for people in ALL stages of life, which is why EmpowerMe Wellness offers Physician Services in many senior communities across the country. Our specialized staff works hard to keep residents healthy for longer by providing top-of-the-line personalized medical care. Learn more here.