A primary care provider (PCP) is charged with monitoring and treating a person’s whole body. Specialists abound and indeed are important. But we are more than the sum of our organs. Your relative’s PCP helps ensure that specialists are not doing things that counteract each other. If you are looking for a new PCP, there are several types of providers to consider.
Family practice doctors. As the name implies, this is a physician who can care for everyone, regardless of age. Their residency covers pediatrics to geriatrics. The downside is they cannot stay deeply up to date on all age groups. Much as your loved one may have been with the same family doctor for decades, it could be time to switch.
Internist. Internists focus on the health needs of adults. Their residency is 100% adult medicine. Some internists pursue additional studies to add a specialty, for instance in rheumatology or neurology.
Geriatricians. These are internists who did specialty training on the needs of older adults. They are versed in the management of multiple chronic diseases. They also understand the complex psychosocial changes of aging, such as loss of spouse and/or friends, loss of independence. Often their approach is more holistic, and they are more apt to consider the importance of quality of life. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of geriatricians. An alternative is an advance practice nurse or physician assistant with a specialty in geriatrics.
Concierge doctors. New to the landscape is the primary care doctor who has opted out of being an employee in a medical group. Instead, they charge a yearly membership fee to keep their practices small. With a “concierge doctor,” you are seen within 48 hours and appointments are longer. Medicare does not pay for the membership fee. This can run $1200–$2400 per year.