When choosing a PCP, consider family medicine

The primary care physician, or PCP, is the quarterback of your healthcare team. You go to your PCP for things like annual checkups, prevention and management of diseases, and care for injuries and illnesses. If more specialized care is needed, your PCP will help you connect with the appropriate doctor and follow your care with that doctor.

Generally, your PCP comes from one of three specialties: family medicine, pediatrics or internal medicine. You can choose any doctor with whom you are comfortable. But as a family medicine practitioner and the chief medical officer of UChicago Medicine AdventHealth Medical Group, I would like to put in a good word for family medicine.

Family medicine providers have access to the same specialized training, information and referral provider panels as any other PCPs. And I believe we offer some special things that can have a positive

impact on care.

Family medicine focuses on what is most important to you: your family. A family medicine doctor can treat patients for their whole lives. Pediatricians work with babies and children, but their patients eventually age out. Even with the best communication between the pediatrician and the doctor taking over from there, it is not the same as having the same doctor throughout. Having a long-term relationship with a PCP can actually lengthen your life (JAMA Intern. Med. 2019;1799(4)506-514).

And a family medicine doctor can treat everyone in your family, from infants to great-grandparents. This can make things easier for you, because you don't have to go to multiple doctors for care and hope that the doctors communicate among each other. It also can improve the level of care because the doctor gets to know everyone in the family and can gain insight into family dynamics, stressors, etc.

A doctor who is treating one family member can talk with other family members about how to help the ailing family member and handle the family's concerns. For example, if a grandparent is dealing with problems of aging, the doctor can ask the parents and children about how they are affected. If a child is having problems in school, the doctor can talk with the child and the parents about possible ways to approach the problems.

This interconnectedness can help to encourage communication and the building of deeper relationships between doctors and patients. And the better the communication and relationship, the more effective the care can be. In the end, your doctor depends on you to be open about how you are feeling, what your concerns are and whether you can and will follow the treatment plan. Good communication and honesty can have a significant impact on your healthcare.

Relationship-building also benefits the doctor. Most family medicine doctors choose this specialty because we really want to help people live their best lives. We enjoy getting to know our patients and building trust with them. Family medicine is a very rewarding field because of the relationships we have with our patients.

If you think that it would be good for your healthcare to have a doctor who treated and came to know everyone in your family, you should consider choosing a family medicine doctor for your PCP.

- Kenneth Nelson, MD, is chief medical officer of UChicago Medicine AdventHealth Medical Group.