By Chris Ayeko, FNP
When it comes to choosing a primary care provider, it’s important to find someone who has the expertise, approach, and communication style to get you the care you need. In order for a provider to understand all of the factors that influence your condition, you need to share detailed personal information, so you need a provider you trust, someone with whom you think you can be open.
Because primary care providers pay attention to the whole body and the factors that affect your life, we get a clear picture of what’s going on, which allows us to work with you to create realistic treatment plans or , if necessary, to refer you to a specialist.
Primary care providers can be physicians or advanced practice providers. Primary care physicians include those in family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics. Many obstetricians and gynecologists also provide primary care. Advanced practice providers include nurse practitioners, medical assistants, and certified nurse midwives.
In MCHC health centers and other federally approved health centers, we work as a team, so that patients receive the right level of care as well as additional support from planners, medical assistants, nurses, patient navigators, nurse case managers and others. We also provide medical, dental and behavioral care, so if we see someone in one department who could benefit from care in another, we can facilitate that care.
Before choosing a primary care provider (or a team of providers), think about what is most important to you. For example, in past years, providers were more directive: they gave recommendations without much discussion with the patient. Today, many providers use a patient-centered approach where we include patients in shared decision making. Which do you prefer?
As computer technology has evolved, it has changed the way patients and providers interact. How do you like to communicate? Once the appointment is over, do you want a doctor to call you with the test results or would you prefer to log into a patient portal?
For many patients, the most important part of the relationship with their provider is a strong sense of connection. Patients want a provider who makes eye contact, listens carefully, asks questions, and encourages them to share what they need and want. Sometimes the best medicine is just to connect and feel valued by another human being, especially during a pandemic where so many have felt isolated.
When you start looking for a supplier, I recommend that you talk to your friends and family rather than reading the reviews online. The people who know you best will know better whether their primary care provider is right for you. Maybe you want a supplier who jokes. Maybe you want one that’s close to your age. Maybe you want someone who shares your cultural traditions. Maybe you want a provider who can communicate in your preferred language. While not all personalities mix well, most medical providers work well with a wide variety of people. People who write reviews online, good or bad, may have a completely different set of criteria for judging a healthcare provider.
If you’re curious about quality, know that federally licensed health centers are required to meet high quality standards in order to maintain federal funding. We are constantly evaluated on how well we comply with best practices and safety standards.
If you are concerned about paying for care, MCHC health centers and other federally approved health centers have financial advisers who, at no cost, can help you determine if you qualify for public insurance. such as Medicare, Medi-Cal, and other programs. If you have insurance, choosing a provider who is in the network will result in the most cost effective care.
Because there is a shortage of primary care providers in Mendocino County (and across the country), it’s best to seek out a provider now, before you have an urgent medical need. It’s nice to have an established relationship to lean on during tough times.
Chris Ayeko is a Family Nurse Practitioner at MCHC Health Centers, a patient-led community organization that serves Mendocino and Lake counties, providing comprehensive primary health care services as well as support services such as education. and translation that promote access to health care. Learn more at mchcinc.org.