by Dr. Matthew Toohey
Some health insurance plans require you to choose a primary care physician (PCP) to coordinate your care. Even if your health plan doesn’t require it, choosing a PCP you’re comfortable with and will visit regularly is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
Getting preventive care, like cancer screenings and immunizations, is incredibly important. It’s even more effective when you have a PCP who knows your health history and is by your side to help you stay well.
When you have a relationship with your PCP, they can make better recommendations for lifestyle changes to help improve your physical and mental health. For example, if you have a digestive disorder, your PCP may be able to make specific recommendations for changes in your eating habits. Having a PCP to guide you can also make it easier to manage chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure.
What to Consider When Choosing a PCP
Choosing a PCP you trust may mean that you visit a few until you find one that works best for you. Here are just some things you may want to consider when choosing a PCP:
- Location. Would you prefer a PCP within walking distance? Do you mind traveling farther for a PCP who has other qualifications that are important to you?
- Communication. Communication with your PCP should be open and honest. You may also want to choose a PCP who speaks your native language.
- Specialization. Are you looking for a PCP to treat a specific condition you have? You can also find a PCP who specializes in your age group or gender.
- Affiliations. Some PCPs are affiliated with certain hospital systems or a network of specialists.
- Certification. What type of certification would you like your PCP to have? Medical professionals who provide primary care can include medical doctors (MD), doctors of osteopathic medicine (DO), nurse practitioners (NP), and physician assistants (PA).
- Online options. Does your PCP have an online portal where you can easily access your health information? Are you interested in virtual care options?
- Recommendations. You might prefer a PCP who was recommended by a friend or family member.
- In-network. You save money by choosing an in-network PCP to coordinate your care.
Choosing a PCP Through AmeriHealth New Jersey
All AmeriHealth New Jersey HMO and POS health plans require members to choose a PCP. To find an in-network PCP, use the AmeriHealth New Jersey Find a Doctor tool at amerihealthnj.com/providerfinder. If you need help finding a PCP, call 1-888-YOUR-AH1 (888-968-7241) (TTY: 711).
Remember, annual exams with your PCP are a great way to stay on top of your health and form a relationship that can help you on your health journey.
Dr. Matthew Toohey is the Network Medical Director for AmeriHealth New Jersey.