Three Signs You’ve Found the Right Primary Care Provider

Choosing a primary care provider (PCP) is a big decision. After all, you’ll be trusting this person with managing your preventive care and wellness, all while guiding you on a journey toward living life as healthily as possible.

When looking for a new provider, most patients will do a lot of research. Things like the provider’s approach to patient care, the make-up of the care team, and the practice’s policies and procedures all play a big role in making that decision. In fact, I recently wrote a blog post for One Healthy Boston where I discussed what to consider when choosing a PCP.

However, that’s not the end of the story: what happens after you’ve made your choice and gone to your first few visits?

In late December, I participated in a Facebook Live with WCVB Channel 5 as part of our One Healthy Boston partnership. The focus of the talk was primary care, and we discussed things like how your doctor works with Advanced Practice Clinicians (APCs) and the difference between MDs and DOs.

But we also discussed something more practical: how to assess the relationship you have with your current PCP.

After all, the way you connect with your PCP should be just that: a relationship, not a one-way street. Too many patients consider awkward feelings or half-answers to be just part of going to the doctor, when they actually may be signs of incompatibility.

Whether you’ve had the same provider for a decade or have only gone to a few visits, here are three signs that you’ve settled on the right provider for you.

1. You can be honest.

When you go to a yearly physical or any other basic appointment with your PCP, it’s important to keep one thing in mind: no one knows what’s going on with your health quite like you do.

For that reason, being honest with your provider is absolutely essential. Fully disclosing things that are bothering you, pains you’re having, or struggles you’re encountering could help diagnose or treat serious health conditions.

Some people say that they’re just not comfortable discussing personal details with anyone, and it’s understandable why there could be a little hesitation.

However, if you’ve found the right PCP, you know that you can raise any concern or ask any question comfortably.

When you find a PCP with whom you have a strong relationship, you’ll find that any embarrassment melts away. Because you trust your provider and know that he or she has your best interests at heart, you’ll feel like your honesty is rewarded by having your concerns addressed or questions answered.

Ultimately, there’s no greater compliment for a provider than to be told by a patient that he or she is completely comfortable being honest with you.

It’s a sign that our efforts to build a strong relationship have paid off, and that our patients feel heard and appreciated.

2. You don’t feel any kind of shame.

Sometimes, a visit with your PCP can feature some difficult conversations.

For example, if you’re having a particularly tough time with a certain health issue or haven’t been following through with an exercise routine, your provider may have to have an honest conversation with you about where you’re falling short.

However, the right provider shouldn’t raise any of these issues in a way that makes you feel belittled or embarrassed. 

Ultimately, you and your PCP want the same thing: for you to live your healthiest and happiest life!

While there may be some bumps in the road on that journey, addressing things with empathy and compassion is always the best approach.

After all, no one wants a doctor’s appointment to feel like a trip to the principal’s office!

If you’ve found that you can discuss a health shortcoming with your provider and not fear getting scolded in return, it’s a sign that your relationship with your provider is a healthy one.

3. Your provider guides you if you need further help.

For some patients, their health journey will involve seeing different specialists or clinicians for treatment that falls beyond the scope of a PCP’s duties, specifically with chronic diseases. For example, a patient with diabetes will still see his or her PCP for check-ups, but will likely also have regular visits with an endocrinologist.

For certain things, your PCP may refer you to a specialist or to an affiliate location where you can continue to get the specialized care you need.

While those visits may be with other doctors or at other locations, that referral shouldn’t be the end of your provider’s involvement in your care!

The right PCP will remain in the know and will use your yearly physical to assist you with chronic disease management. A team-based approach, where you see specialists regularly but still see your PCP on a yearly basis, is always the way to go.

That way, your PCP can address any other potential health issues that may arise and can also provide some guidance on continuing to manage that longer-term illness. 

Leyda Delgado, MD, practices Internal Medicine at South Shore Medical Center Quincy.

Does your provider not meet the criteria above? Many of our providers are accepting new patients! Learn more on our Primary Care page.