What is a Primary Care Provider?
A primary care provider (PCP) is sometimes referred to as a primary care physician. A PCP can be:
- a doctor,
- nurse practitioner,
- physician assistant,
- or even a care team (through a virtual-first primary care practice like CloseKnit).
How Do I Choose a PCP if I Don't Have One?
There are two reliable ways to start your search:
- Talk to your friends and family—personal recommendations can give you a good sense of whether you would be comfortable with a particular PCP.
- Use a health insurance company's provider directory—this is typically an online tool that helps you find a PCP in your area and within your health plan's network, such as CareFirst's Find a Doctor tool. Use a health insurance company's provider directory—this is typically an online tool that helps you find a PCP in your area and within your health plan's network, such as CareFirst's Find a Doctor tool.
Do I Have to Choose a PCP?
If you have an HMO health plan, you will usually be required to choose a PCP and to get a referral (written notice) from your PCP to see any medical specialists other than an OB/GYN.
Otherwise, when it comes to receiving care, you have a choice:
- You can receive care from any doctor you would like to see. (However, using in-network doctors will often reduce the amount you pay for care.)
- Selecting a PCP is not mandatory—but it is highly recommended.
For the best healthcare experience, you'll want to choose a PCP who is:
- Part of your health plan's network
- Currently accepting new patients
- Conveniently located
- Fluent in your preferred language
- Able to offer appointment times, like evenings or weekends, that work with your schedule
Why is choosing a PCP important?
Establishing a relationship with a PCP is the best way to receive consistent, quality care and ensure your healthcare experience is the best it can be. They play a huge role in keeping you healthy now and in the long run.
Your PCP's office is your medical "home base." They lead an entire team of people who care about your unique needs and health goals. Your PCP:
- Has online access to your medical records from all your doctors, including labs results and prescriptions
- Ensures you get the care you need, when you need it
- Reviews all your medications for any possible drug interactions or duplications
- Develops a personalized plan of care for any health problems
Using the Find a Doctor Tool
To use the Find a Doctor tool to help you choose a PCP, log in or select the Guest option. Then from the list of types of care, select Medical Care. You will then see an option to search Primary Care Providers. This tool will show you primary care physicians who are in-network for CareFirst's Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage, with their specialty, whether they are accepting new patients, what languages they speak, where they went to medical school, and their practice address and phone number.
If you’re already a member, you’ll only get results for doctors that accept your particular CareFirst plan.