Skip to main content

Why Do I Need a Primary Care Provider (PCP)?

Primary care providers are key to overall health and wellness.
Primary care providers are key to overall health and wellness.

Published on June 1, 2023

Read Time: 5 Minutes

Three Things to Know

  • Having a primary care provider (PCP) ensures regular preventive screenings to detect health issues early and improve treatment outcomes.
  • When choosing a PCP, consider factors such as insurance coverage, your particular healthcare needs and clinic location/hours – is it convenient for you?
  • While Google reviews can be helpful, exploring official websites, reading trusted reviews and seeking recommendations are key to finding the right provider.

We often hear about the importance of having a primary care provider (PCP), but what is a PCP and why do we need one? Nathan Crawshaw, PA-C, a board-certified physician assistant at Phelps Health, explains what a PCP does and why they are vital to a patient’s healthcare journey.

Why is it important to have a PCP?

PCPs ensure that you stay up-to-date on preventive health screenings. Common preventive screenings include monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, as well as screening for common types of cancer. When potential health issues are detected at an early stage, they are typically easier to treat and manage.

Your PCP, who is familiar with your medical history, will know which screenings you need and when, based on your own specific risk factors. Also, when you are established with a provider, it is easier to get in to be seen for an illness.

A PCP also serves as the central point of contact for your healthcare needs. They can refer you to a specialist if needed, monitor your health over time and ensure that all aspects of your health are well managed.

What should patients look for when choosing a PCP?

In reality, not every patient will mesh well with every provider, and that’s OK. When choosing a PCP, it’s important to find someone who actively listens when you talk, explains medical information clearly and involves you in the decision-making process. In addition, you may want to consider these factors:

  • Insurance: Is this provider in my health insurance network?
  • Specialization: Does this provider have specialized training or expertise related to my specific healthcare needs?
  • Convenience: Is this provider’s clinic close to me, and will the office hours work with my schedule? Do they offer telehealth visits?
  • Connections: Is this provider affiliated with a reputable hospital or healthcare system?

Is it important to have shared interests with your PCP?

Not necessarily, but you definitely want to find someone who cares about your health as much as you do.

Can PCPs be both doctors and advanced practice providers (APPs)?

Yes, advanced practice providers, such as nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA), can absolutely be primary care providers. In the state of Missouri, APPs work under a collaborating physician. These medical providers work closely with your physician to diagnose, treat and coordinate your care. Learn more about the different types of providers.

Would you suggest asking friends and family for recommendations?

That’s a wonderful idea. Find a friend who loves their provider and find out the reasons why. Their provider might be a good fit for you, too.

Would you recommend looking at Google or Healthgrades reviews when selecting a provider?

You can use Google as a starting point, but keep in mind that not all providers are a good fit for all patients. Reviews are subjective opinions from individuals, and their experiences can differ greatly. Some reviews may be overly positive or negative due to personal biases, as well. Additionally, some factors cannot be accurately assessed through a Google review alone.

With Google, there is always the potential for fake or misleading reviews, as with any online platform. For these reasons, we

Nathan Crawshaw, PA
Nathan Crawshaw, PA

appreciate when patients do take the time to leave honest feedback online.

Patients should dig deeper by visiting the provider’s official website, reading patient reviews from trusted sources and seeking recommendations from trusted friends and healthcare professionals.

If you have a first visit with a new provider and don't feel that it's a good fit, should you go again? Or try a new provider?

Giving a provider a second chance isn’t a bad idea. That being said, you also can try another provider. This is your health. You need to feel as if your concerns are being listened to and addressed to the best of the provider’s ability.

I'm unsure about my new provider's advice on a medical condition. Should I get a second opinion?

Getting a second opinion never hurts. Maybe the second opinion will be directly in line with the first provider, or maybe the second opinion will look at the issue from a slightly different angle, providing a new avenue for evaluation and potential diagnosis.

I don’t live in Rolla. Are there other Phelps Health Primary Care clinics?

Yes, Phelps Health has primary care clinics in St. James, Salem, Waynesville and Vienna as well.

Do Phelps Health PCPs offer telehealth visits?

A majority of Phelps Health providers offer telehealth visits. When you call your provider’s office to make an appointment, ask if your appointment can be done through a telehealth visit. If so, you will receive instructions on how to participate in a telehealth visit with your provider.

I need to be seen quickly, but my PCP doesn't have any openings this week. Are there providers who can see patients the same day or next day?

Yes, you can view a list of providers who offer same-day or next-business day appointments. Call (573) 364-9000 to make an appointment or schedule through MyChart.

I have limited mobility and/or don't have a driver's license. What transportation options does Phelps Health offer to assist with patient appointments?

Phelps Health courtesy van drivers will travel to any patient within a 30-mile radius of the medical center in Rolla, Missouri. The Phelps Health patient transportation service is provided free to area patients, thanks to the generosity of Phelps Health, with the assistance of the Phelps Health Foundation and the Phelps Health Auxiliary and Volunteer Services. Please give at least three days’ notice (72 hours) before scheduling a pickup. To see if a van is available on the date of your appointment, please call the Phelps Health patient transportation message line at (573) 341-8278. Learn more about this service.

Take Charge of Your Health Today

Find a trusted primary care provider who understands your needs and supports your well-being. View a list of all Phelps Health providers. Make an appointment by calling (573) 364-9000 or via MyChart.

Found in: Family Medicine Health Wellness