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Health Break: Why it’s important to choose and maintain a PCP

A podcast for UPMC Health Plan members, Health Break is your quick guide to caring for your mental and physical health, prioritizing wellness, and making the most of your health insurance plan.

Episode 13: Take a Health Break with Dr. Amy Meister

Dr. Meister takes a Health Break to discuss why seeing a PCP (or primary care provider) is an important part of health insurance. Plus, she’ll tell us how to select a PCP.


Episode transcript:

Camille: Welcome to Health Break by UPMC Health Plan, your quick guide to health, wellness, and how to make the most of your health insurance plan. Listen during your coffee break, lunch break, or anytime you need a break. I’m your host, Dr. Camille Clarke-Smith. I help to oversee the quality of the plans we offer at UPMC Health Plan.

Alex: And I’m your co-host, Alex Treanor. I’m a senior health coach who works with our members on healthy lifestyle habits and goals. This is your… Health Break.

Camille: Hey everyone! Dr. Camille Clarke-Smith here. Today Dr. Amy Meister will talk to us about why choosing a primary care provider that participates in your network is an important part of managing your health care and your health care costs.

Thank you so much, Dr. Meister, for taking a Health Break with us today.

Dr. Meister: You’re welcome. I’m glad to be here.

Camille: Dr. Meister, to get started, can you explain—what is a primary care provider or PCP?

Dr. Meister: A primary care provider is a focal point of your personal health care. It’s a provider that you can see for acute issues or chronic needs. It’s someone that should serve as the air traffic controller of your personal health care needs and journey.
PCPs provide a vast array of services ranging from general wellness visits—that’s a time that you can visit with your provider to really go over your health history, including your family history, to understand what your personal health risks are. You can also go over chronic conditions that you may have already been diagnosed with to understand if you’re undergoing the correct treatment plan, or if you need to make any adjustments. Additionally, your PCP can provide acute visits for issues such as runny noses, questions like, “Do I have COVID?”—or even some PCPs do things like stitches and even set broken bones. That’s something that you will talk to your primary care provider about to understand what services he or she provides in their office.

Camille: Why should we choose a PCP? Can we have more than one?

Dr. Meister: Great questions. Choosing a PCP is very important in your personal health care journey. A PCP can be likened to either a quarterback [or] an air traffic controller. It’s someone that can help navigate you through your health care journey, having one focal point to be the source of truth. If you have questions about various specialists that you’re seeing, or even questions about perhaps dietary trends that you’ve read while getting ready to check out in the grocery store on the cover of magazines, PCPs can really help answer your questions and they’re the best to have a longitudinal relationship to know you and your extended family. Therefore, they’re the best to help navigate, coordinate care, and recommend resources that are right for you. Perhaps you need a physical therapist or connected to a social worker or pharmacy delivery service. Your PCP’s office can really help coordinate those services and care to make sure that you are set up for success with your well-being.

Camille: So, who can be a PCP?

Dr. Meister: PCPs are traditionally people who have successfully completed either an internal medicine residency [or] family medicine residency. However, sometimes obstetricians or nephrologists serve as PCPs. Additionally, when in your PCP practice, your provider may be a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.

Camille: How often should we visit our PCP?

Dr. Meister: The cadence in which you should see your PCP really is personalized. It depends on your own personal health needs. Everybody should see their PCP at least annually to go through a wellness exam and review their current state of health. From that point on your PCP can make a recommendation as to how frequently you should see [them] for maintenance visits, much like different cars require annual oil changes and some require oil changes every three months and tire rotations. People aren’t much different at all. So that is something very important for you to discuss with your PCP. And of course your PCPs are always standing ready for you when you have something that’s unexpected, whether that be an acute injury or illness. They’re ready to serve you and help connect you to the right resource or right care provider to make sure you get the best treatment possible.

Camille: Thank you so much, Dr. Meister, for taking a Health Break with us today.

Dr. Meister: You’re welcome.

Camille: UPMC Health Plan members can select a PCP through the UPMC Health Plan app or by logging into our secure member website, MyHealth OnLine.

Visit our online provider search to find a person who provides care or a place to receive care.
Find show notes and more information at Join us as we explore other health and wellness topics in the next episode of Health Break.
This podcast is for informational and educational purposes. It is not medical care or advice. Individuals in need of medical care should consult their personal care provider. Views and opinions expressed by the hosts and guests are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of UPMC Health Plan and its employees.

About Dr. Camille Clarke-Smith: 

Camille Clarke-Smith, EdD, is a program director in the Quality Improvement, Medicare Stars Department at UPMC Health Plan, where she leads the Medicare Faith and Wellness Program, a 3- to 12-week health and wellness challenge. She is also the founder of the nonprofit Transforming the Health of African American Women (THAW) Inc. She earned a doctorate in health and physical activity education from the University of Pittsburgh in addition to a master’s in exercise science and a bachelor’s in psychology and sociology. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in social work at Carlow University. 

About Alex Treanor: 

Alex Treanor is a lead health coach at UPMC Health Plan. As a lifestyle health coach, she specializes in helping you lose weight, eat healthy, get more physical activity, be less stressed, and quit tobacco. Alex has a master’s in Kinesiology, Integrative Wellness from Point Loma Nazarene University. She has been coaching since 2014 and is a Nationally Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach and Certified Personal Trainer. Alex is passionate about helping people improve their relationship with food and exercise while creating healthy, sustainable routines filled with enjoyment. Alex enjoys spending time with her husband, walking with her dog, and eating tacos in the sunshine.