When it comes to a person’s health care journey, often, a primary care provider can help a patient access a range of services. They can also serve as a “home base” for health care needs.
“A primary care provider can help with many health issues such as regular physical exams, minor illnesses, and screenings,” explained Patrick Terry, D.O., a family medicine physician at ThedaCare-Oshkosh. “They can help to serve as a guide for your health. When you meet with them, you can update them about any medical issues or concerns, ask questions, and consult with them as needed. They are there to help oversee and manage your day-to-day health needs.”
A primary care provider can be a physician, nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, or physician assistant who provides, coordinates, or helps a patient access health care. Primary care providers have different levels of education and training, which affects their role in patient care. Understanding the differences between primary care professionals and their specialties can help patients choose the right provider for their health care needs.
Different types of primary care providers include:
- MDs and DOs are both licensed physicians. MDs focus on allopathic medicine while DOs emphasize holistic health and manipulative therapy. Both are qualified to diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medication, and perform surgeries.
- Physician assistants (PA) and advanced practice nurses (APN) can perform many of the same tasks as physicians, but under the supervision of an MD or DO. PAs and APNs have a master’s degree or higher and are qualified to diagnose and treat illnesses, order medical tests, and prescribe medication.
- Licensed practical nurses (LPN) and registered nurses (RN) are both nursing professionals. RNs have a higher level of education and training. RNs can perform assessments, give medications, and develop care plans for patients, while LPNs typically provide basic nursing care and administer medication.
Family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatricians are all primary care specialties. Family medicine physicians provide care for people of all ages, while internists focus on adult medicine. Pediatricians specialize in the care of children from infancy to adolescence. Other primary care specialties include obstetrics and gynecology, geriatrics, and psychiatry.
Many primary care professionals will refer to a specialist if a patient needs specialized or advanced care. More common specialties include cardiology, orthopedics, neurology, oncology, and gastroenterology.
How to Find a Primary Care Provider
If someone needs a primary care provider, searching online might be a good place to begin. ThedaCare offers many options to help people connect with providers.
Hospital and health system websites are good tools to start the vetting process. Those searching for a provider can view the ThedaCare provider directory. You can search for physicians by name or specialty, finding basic information such as credentials, education, clinic locations and more. Many of these profiles include a video, which gives you a better feel for how physicians interact with patients.
“When patients visit my profile page, I hope they get to know me a little better,” said Dr. Terry. “For example, I have a passion for caring for multigenerational families – initially providing care for young adults, and then treating their children to be the healthiest versions of themselves. That is a wonderful opportunity in a physician’s career.”
Critical Questions to Ask
If you find a doctor online that appears to be a good fit, you will want to inquire further to make sure the health care team aligns with your health goals. Some critical questions to ask when making an appointment or seeing the doctor for the first time include:
- What are your qualifications and experience?
- How do you stay up-to-date on medical advancements and treatments?
- Can you describe your communication style and approach in treating patients?
- What is your availability, and how do you handle emergencies?
- What is your approach to preventive medicine?
You should also ask about fees and insurance coverage too.
“I feel blessed to be given the opportunity to help my patients achieve their health goals,” said Dr. Terry. “Care teams are here to empower each person to live their best life. Their success is my success.”
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.