Things to consider when choosing a primary care physician

Aug 18, 2016

Selecting a primary care physician is one of the best things you can do for your health. However, it is often one of the most difficult. A primary care physician is more than just someone who you call when you’re feeling ill. On the contrary, a good physician is someone who will follow you through your healthcare journey, encouraging you to make healthy lifestyle changes and helping you through difficult health situations. When searching for a primary care physician, keep the following considerations in mind.

1. Which doctors are considered “in-network” by your insurance plan?
Most health insurance plans have predetermined lists of doctors and hospitals they consider to be “in-network,” meaning that the insurance company has negotiated special rates and discounts for care you may receive. Selecting a doctor that is “in-network” will reduce your out of pocket expenses and any surprise “out-of- network” charges. Contact your insurance provider directly to find out which doctors and providers are considered “in-network” with your plan.

2. Which type of doctor has the right expertise?
While there are many specialties in medicine, there are typically only three types that qualify as primary care physicians. Family medicine physicians are trained to care for patients of all ages. While they are considered generalists, many also have training in additional areas, including OBGYN, pediatrics and sports injuries. Internal medicine physicians focus primarily on the treatment of adults and specialize in the prevention, diagnosis and management of diseases and chronic conditions. Some internal medicine doctors specialize even further, focusing on particular diseases, organs or even age groups. Pediatricians specialize in the physical, mental and emotional well-being of children. Most pediatricians treat children from birth to about 14 years old, but that age range may vary by practice.

3. Do your family and friends have any referrals?
With so many doctors to choose from, many people turn to trusted family and friends for referrals. If someone you know and trust has had a positive experience with a specific doctor, it’s possible you may also like that particular physician. However, this isn’t always the case, so it’s important to do additional research on any referrals you receive. If you’re moving to a new area, you could ask your current physician for their help with finding a doctor in your new area.

4. Location and logistics Is it important that your doctor’s office is near your home or work?
Do you need someone who sees patients on weekends? Do you need a physician that speaks another language? These conveniences are all important when choosing a primary care physician. Make a list of the things that are important to you, then call the physician’s main office line and ask the receptionist. Most providers are more than happy to answer these questions for you.

5. Are you comfortable with the physician?
Once you’ve selected a new primary care physician, schedule an appointment so you can meet them face-to- face. Talk with him or her about your medical history, bring up any concerns you have and make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to managing chronic conditions. Your primary care physician should be someone you trust with managing your healthcare, so it’s important that you are comfortable with them and the care they provide.

With so many options, choosing a primary care physician can seem like a daunting task. But, keeping these five important things in mind when looking for a doctor should help to narrow down your search. After all, one of the best things you can do for your health is to establish a strong partnership with your primary care doctor.