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Health care is a team sport — a good ‘quarterback’ should lead the way
By John Brill, MD
 
Health care can be complex and confusing — often resulting in fragmented or duplicative care. Wouldn’t it be great to have someone you know you can trust when you need help? Having a primary care provider (PCP) on your team can streamline the process and maximize your health care dollars.
 
A PCP serves as your health care “quarterback” — calling the plays and providing access to other health care services as needed. A primary care provider who knows you and your health history can effectively handle most of your medical needs. Seeing the same health care professional over time builds familiarity and mutual trust.
 
Using a PCP for most of your health care means avoiding more expensive health care options, such as urgent care or the emergency room for routine health concerns.
 
Welcome to your medical ‘home’
A PCP should be your first “go to” resource for health care. Your PCP can address short-term health issues and handle chronic conditions, preventive care and screenings. Your PCP can arrange referrals to specialists and help you make sense out of all the medical information available on the Internet and social media.
 
Building a relationship with a PCP ensures that you’ll receive the coordinated medical care you need. With a PCP you are more likely to have:
• higher immunization rates
• better control of chronic disease
• improved rates of screening and preventive services
• faster, less expensive diagnostic evaluations when you become ill
 
Primary care providers include:
 
Family medicine — Generalists with training in pediatrics, gynecology and geriatric medicine who treat patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly. 
Internal medicine — Specialists in preventive care and diagnosing and treating complex illnesses in adults.
Pediatrics — Specialists who focus on caring for newborns, babies, children and young adults.
Obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) — Specialists in women’s care, who offer prenatal, labor and delivery services during pregnancy.
 
A team approach
Many primary care providers work in collaboration with Advanced Practice Providers (APPs). APPs (nurse practitioners and physician assistants) are trained and certified to perform many of the same tasks a physician does, such as physical exams, diagnosing disease and prescribing medications.
 

Tips for selecting a primary care provider

Many health care systems offer a wealth of information about primary care providers on their websites. Aurora offers “Find a Doctor” resources to help people select a health care professional who is right for them. The site includes online profiles about prospective providers (some include videos) and patient reviews.
 
Seek referrals
You can also ask for a PCP recommendation from a family member, co-worker, friend or another healthcare professional whose judgment you trust. 
 
Consider convenience and logistics
Can the new provider meet your specific health care needs? Are you seeking someone close to home or work? Ask about the provider’s office hours – which days and times are appointments offered? (are any early or late appointments available?) You’ll also want to learn which hospital(s) the provider works with.
 
Verify ‘network’ status
To maximize your health care dollars, be sure the new provider is in your insurance company’s provider network. Your insurance company can provide a list of network providers, but call the new provider’s office to verify coverage.
 
Tapping technology
Ask if there is a secure patient portal for patients to use — this online resource can streamline the health care experience. For example, through myAurora patients can:
• message their provider
• access test results
• manage appointments
• pay their bill
 
To be sure you’ve selected the right health care provider, schedule a short appointment to get acquainted. You’ll want to feel comfortable with the provider and his or her staff.
 
Ensuring continuity of care
Finally, growing research suggests that people who maintain a strong, ongoing relationship with a primary care provider not only report greater satisfac­tion with their medical care, but also enjoy better overall health because of continuity of care. This is an important factor to ensure optimal health care throughout the lifespan.
  
John Brill, MD, is director of Aurora Health Care’s Network Medical Operations and leads the system’s wellness efforts.
 
For more information,visit AuroraEmployerSolutions.org
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