Don’t wait until you get sick to choose a primary care physician (PCP)! Primary care physicians see their patients regularly and look for symptoms a patient may not notice. Your chosen doctor will oversee your health, wellness, and help you through illness– and they’re in it for the long-run. A primary care physician is your main healthcare provider and looks out for your overall health, recommending screenings, making referrals, encouraging healthy habits and more.
In the past, people relied on their family doctors for everything from broken bones to the common cold and the delivery of babies. Family practitioners knew the medical history of the entire family because they treated both the parents and their children right in the home. The role of your primary care physician (PCP) brings back this tradition. Instead of specializing in a specific area of medicine, your primary care physician will help you maintain your overall health with preventive care as well as illness treatment. Modern day health insurance plans, particularly health maintenance organizations (HMOs), require patients to choose a primary care physician for this reason. Read on to learn more about the importance of a primary care physician and learn tips on how to find a provider that is right for you.
Finding a Primary Care Physician
If you don’t currently have a designated primary care provider, there are many ways you can find the right one. Below are a few suggestions to help you start your search:
- Health plan network. Look up which providers are in your health insurance plan’s network. Because you will likely see your PCP often, using a doctor within your plan’s network will save you a lot of money. Plus, it makes it easier for you to locate a physician closer to your location.
- Ask for referrals. Talk to friends, neighbors and relatives and see if they can refer you to a quality primary care physician.
- Talk to other healthcare professionals. Talk to your dentist, pharmacist, and other health care providers that already treat you and see if they can recommend you a great PCP.
Checking A Primary Care Physician’s Quality
Some physicians are “board certified”. This means that they have completed training in a specialty and passed an exam that assesses their knowledge and skill in an area, such as diabetes. You can find information about an individual physician’s board certification at the following websites:
- The American Board of Medical Specialties
- The American Medical Association (AMA)
- The American Osteopathic Association (AOA)
Another factor to consider is the primary doctor’s bedside manner. You should feel comfortable to develop a trusting, ongoing relationship with a healthcare physician. You also want to ensure that they have the means to meet your medical needs and steer you to specialists when needed. HealthGrades is a great review website to help you learn more about a doctor’s personality and patient interactions. The site allows patients to write a review about their experience with a particular doctor.
Contact Primary Care Offices
Once you’ve narrowed down your list to a handful of PCP candidates, the next step is to contact their offices. But first, make a list of the questions that are important to you. Below are some examples you may want to include:
- Is the doctor accepting new patients?
- Does the office have lab or x-ray capabilities on site?
- If a patient needs to be admitted to a hospital, what hospitals does the doctor use or have privileges at?
- What are the office hours?
- Can you contact the doctor by email or personal phone?
- Which providers will see patients for the doctor if he or she is not available?
- How long does it take to get on the schedule for a routine appointment?
- Does the office offer medical advice over the phone?
Schedule an Appointment
Now that you’ve determined the who and what, it’s time to schedule a new patient/initial appointment. Keep in mind that a new patient visit is a medical appointment and will be billed to your insurance. A first visit is the best way to learn about the physician by seeing the way he or she talks with you. Following the appointment, ask yourself:
- Did the doctor listen, ask questions and answer questions?
- Did the doctor show respect? Did I feel comfortable?
- Did the doctor address the medical problem I came with?
- Did the doctor clearly explain my condition & treatment?
We hope these tips help you find a primary care physician that you feel you can trust and who can meet the general medical needs of you and your family. We love to hear from our followers, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook & Twitter before you go.