Do I Need a Primary Care Provider (PCP)?

Alexis Bryan
Alexis Bryan23 Aug 2022

Primary care providers (PCP) are important for continuity of care. Having a PCP is beneficial because they are familiar with your medical history, unlike providers you may only see once. PCPs can also direct you to the right specialists based on your needs and recommend preventive screenings and lab testing to keep you healthy.

In recent years, the number of people with a PCP has been steadily declining; one in four people in America do not have a PCP. With our new expansion of services, Mira can set you up with a virtual provider, so you don’t even have to go into the doctor’s office. Mira can also help you obtain discounted prescriptions, low-cost lab testing, and access to affordable urgent care visits. Check out our virtual care options today!

Do You Need a PCP?

Primary care providers (PCPs) are usually doctors, sometimes called primary care physicians, who are generalists trained to address your day-to-day health concerns. You may think a PCP is not necessary; having a primary care provider is essential to manage your health on a long-term basis. 

Benefits of a PCP

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows people who have a PCP receive higher-value care and report significantly better health care access and experience. Having an established relationship with a PCP is beneficial for many reasons.

Personalized Care

Having an established relationship with a doctor can help you get the best care possible. By seeing them regularly, they can recommend lifestyle changes and preventive care as needed. Your PCP will know you better than a doctor you see one time, including your: 

  • Health goals
  • Lifestyle habits
  • Medical history
  • Medications
  • Family health history
  • Personality
  • Preferences
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A PCP Can Help Keep You Healthy

The best time to get a PCP is when you are healthy; setting up a relationship with a provider is important for long-term health. 

A yearly visit with your PCP can:

  • Keep you up to date on routine screenings (e.g., colonoscopies)
  • Manage your risks of developing a chronic disease
  • Catch health issues early before they progress into something more serious
  • Help you make lifestyle changes (e.g., stopping smoking)
  • Address any side effects to medications you’re taking

Additionally, your PCP will know to look for risk factors and signs of disease. People do not always experience symptoms during the early stages of sickness, but routine checkups can help you reduce your risk of developing a chronic condition.

Your primary care provider will likely educate you on diet, exercise, and other healthy habits to keep you in your best health. A PCP can help prevent you from getting sick in the first place.

A PCP Can Save You Time and Money

When you are sick, you may be inclined to make an appointment with a specialist to treat your illness. The problem is, the specialist is only able to treat certain conditions.

A PCP can save you money by acting as your “medical home” by tracking all of your health information. With full documentation of any tests, procedures, and underlying conditions you may have, your PCP will have a more holistic view of your health. 

Your PCP can sort through your symptoms and suggest the best course of action instead of guessing where the problem is. They will be able to refer you to the right specialist and schedule a follow-up as needed, so you don’t waste time and money with unnecessary specialist appointments and lab tests.

Nick Bryant, counselor, and owner of, explains, “When chronic conditions go untreated for years, hospitalizations can occur. A $20 copay to see your doctor is much less expensive than your average hospital stay of $12,600, which is why seeing your doctor regularly is so important.”

Primary Care Provider Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you don’t have a PCP, finding one can feel daunting. It is important to find a PCP who aligns with your values and can communicate effectively to understand your needs. We offer some guidelines below to help you find the right match to begin your search. 

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How do I choose a PCP?

There are two main considerations when choosing a PCP. First, you want to make sure they take your insurance if you are insured. Sometimes your insurance company can even help you find someone who accepts your insurance.

Secondly, you want to make sure you find someone you trust. You can do this by asking family members, friends, neighbors, or other healthcare professionals you know. The American Board of Family Medicine has a search tool to find a Board-Certified Family Physician in your area.

What should I ask a potential PCP?

When looking for a PCP, it is a good idea to schedule an interview to see if they are the right fit for your lifestyle and needs. 

Some initial questions to ask are:

  • What are your qualifications?
  • Are you certified in primary care?
  • Do you focus on disease prevention or treatment?
  • Do you have a more conservative or more aggressive approach to treatment?
  • How do you decide when a patient needs a specialist?
  • How do you like to communicate (in person, on the phone, by email)?
  • Whom would I talk to when you are on vacation?

You may also want to ask about their office:

  • What are the office hours?
  • How long does it usually take to get an appointment?
  • Does the office do lab tests onsite or nearby?
  • Are the staff members friendly?
  • Do staff members respond to calls quickly?
  • Do you have an online patient portal? How do I get set up?

How do I prepare for my first PCP visit?

To be best prepared for your first PCP visit, you should gather your medical records, medication lists, and insurance information. Bring anything that may help your provider understand you and your health needs so they can provide you with the best care possible.

You can also come prepared with general health questions, although additional visits may be necessary if you are experiencing symptoms that require lab testing or specialist care. 

Bottom Line

Having a PCP is important to manage your long-term health in addition to any concerns and sicknesses that come along the way. PCPs offer personalized care in a way one-time doctors can not.

Finding the right PCP can be challenging, but Mira can help by setting you up with a qualified virtual primary care provider today! These providers can refer you to specialists as needed and prescribe necessary medications. With Mira, you can also get up to 80% off prescriptions and low-cost lab testing. Sign up today.

Alexis Bryan

Alexis Bryan MPH, is a recent graduate of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. She is passionate about increasing access to care to improve health outcomes. Outside of work, she loves to travel, read, and pay too much attention to her plants.