Frequently Asked Questions - Primary Care

How do I find the right primary care provider (PCP)?

You have many options for primary care providers in Central Kentucky. The important part is finding the right healthcare provider for you or a family member. Consider these factors as you choose a new doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant:

  • Availability. Is the provider taking new patients?
  • Insurance coverage. Does the practice accept your insurance?
  • Location. Does the provider have an office convenient to where you live and work or near where your kids go to school?
  • Personality. After the initial visit, do you find that you and your provider communicate well? Do they seem to understand your concerns? Do they answer your questions clearly?
  • Telehealth. If you prefer the occasional remote visit, is the provider set up for telehealth?

You can find the answers to some of these questions by searching for a UK HealthCare provider online. Be sure to visit the UK HealthCare website for their office or health system profile, not a third-party site where information may be out of date.

What are the different areas of primary care practice?

Depending on your needs, preferences and availability of providers in your area, you can choose from among several types of primary care.

  • UK Family & Community Medicine providers offer wellness care and treat a variety of illnesses and injuries for the whole family, from infants to adults.
  • UK General Internal Medicine providers, also called internists, offer primary care to adolescents and adults and are a great option for patients with chronic health conditions.
  • Internal Medicine & Pediatrics Group providers are board-certified in pediatrics and internal medicine and can care for patients throughout life — from infancy through the senior years.
  • UK Women’s Health – Primary Care providers offer personalized primary care for women throughout life, in addition to well-woman annual exams and screenings.

What are the different types of primary care providers?

Perhaps you’ve wondered about the difference between a medical doctor, a doctor of osteopathic medicine, a physician assistant and a nurse practitioner. During a routine visit, any of these providers may do similar things to take care of you: listen as you discuss your concerns, perform a physical exam, diagnose your condition and suggest next steps for you to take. However, there are differences between each kind of primary care provider and the kinds of medicine they can practice.

  • A medical doctor, or MD, has a doctoral-level medical degree from an approved school and has passed a medical licensing exam. A medical doctor diagnoses and treats illnesses and injuries. They may also perform surgery and other procedures, such as an endoscopy.
  • A doctor of osteopathic medicine, or DO, also has a doctoral-level medical degree and licensure. Like an MD, a DO can diagnose and treat illness and injury, as well as perform surgery. Their training includes work in osteopathic manipulative therapy, which is an approach to treating musculoskeletal pain and other disorders.
  • A physician assistant/physician associate, or PA, has a master’s-level degree and licensure and performs many of the same duties as an MD or DO. In Kentucky, a PA practices medicine under a supervising physician.
  • A nurse practitioner, or NP, has a nursing degree plus additional graduate education and licensing. A nurse practitioner does many of the same jobs as other primary care providers. In Kentucky, a nurse practitioner may practice independently.

What do nurse practitioners and physician assistants do in primary care?

These providers perform many of the same functions in primary care. When you make an appointment with a  nurse practitioner or physician assistant, they’ll take your history, examine you and order tests, just like any other medical provider. They will advise you about health and wellness. If you are sick or hurt, they will offer a diagnosis for the problem and prescribe treatments or perform limited in-office care, such as removing a splinter or stitching a minor wound.

Why is it a good idea to have a dedicated primary care provider?

When you have an urgent health need, calling your primary care provider is a great first step. Your provider or their nurse can guide you to the right level of care, whether it’s making an appointment, scheduling a telehealth visit or seeking treatment in the emergency room. Your provider, or the UK HealthCare provider they refer you to, will have access to your health history. They can look at your issue in the context of your wider health picture.

What is preventive care and how is it different from diagnostic care?

In diagnostic care, a provider aims to discover what is making you sick and to correct it. In preventive care, your primary care provider works with you to help you avoid becoming sick in the first place. Examples of preventive care include checking your blood sugar levels, asking about your family history of disease, and recommending lifestyle changes or medications to help you avoid developing a chronic condition.

Is primary care covered for free by my health insurance?

Individual insurance plans cover different expenses. Most health plans cover certain preventive services provided by your primary care provider, such as immunizations and screenings, for free. However, that does not mean every visit will be free. You can check with your insurer to learn more about your coverage.

What is a hospitalist?

A hospitalist acts as your primary care provider while you are in the hospital. Typically an internal medicine specialist, a hospitalist oversees the management of your care in this setting. The hospitalist works together with other specialists and the nursing staff to ensure you have everything you need to recover successfully from your illness or procedure.