Choosing a Primary Care Physician: 5 Things to Consider

| August 5, 2012

choosing a doctor Choosing a primary care physician takes finding one that fits your medical needs and one you can feel comfortable talking with to help you make the right health decisions. This can be a difficult task, but that is no reason to put it off. Part of good health is preventive care. The right doctor can set you on the right path by discussing all the issues, including risks, and helping to catch any problems before they get worse.

Insurance coverage

Often, finding the right doctor doesn’t just mean finding one that is a match for your medical needs. It also means one that accepts your insurance.

Medical insurance companies often suggest or approve physicians. Choosing an approved physician saves money because the insurance company offers incentives for finding a doctor within your network. If the doctor isn’t in your health plan, check to see how much you will have to pay out of your own pocket. Other questions to ask include whether you will still get credit toward your deductible if you use an out of network doctor.

Certification

Medicinenet.com states that many practicing physicians are board certified. That means they completed residency training in a specific field such as family medicine and successfully took a competency exam in that field. The American Board of Medical Specialties, a nonprofit organization, is one source to see whether a doctor is certified. The board states on its website that while board certification is voluntary, “it’s a commitment to continually expand knowledge in a medical specialty.”

Accessibility

Another thing to consider when choosing a primary care physician is accessibility. How easy is it to reach the doctor’s office? If you work during the day, consider how you will get there from work as well as from home. Also, check to see how long do you have to wait to get an appointment? MedlinePlus, a website operated by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, suggests checking to see if the office hours fit your own schedule.

The doctor is not the only factor in judging accessibility. Considerations concerning the office staff include whether they are friendly and helpful, especially when it comes to answering questions about insurance coverage, and whether the office returns calls. Also inquire about how far in advance one has to make an appointment.

Relationship

Building a relationship with your doctor requires trust. Do you feel comfortable talking to the doctor? Does the doctor answer your questions and explain things so that you understand? These are some of the tips shared by FamilyDoctor.org.

Part of it relies on your own preferences. Medline Plus suggests asking yourself if you want a doctor who seems friendly and warm or more formal. Another question posed by Medline Plus is whether the doctor invites you to be involved in your care.

Prevention

Don’t wait until you are sick to choose a primary care physician. Check out doctors while you are well and find one that focuses on prevention. That focus on preventive care and healthy lifestyle choices, states MedLine Plus, is part of the role of a primary care physician.

Discussing your health and identifying any risky behaviors, including smoking and overeating, can help curb problems or catch them before they become major issues. You want a doctor who is an equal partner in that effort.

Think about these things while searching for a doctor and don’t forget to check through DexKnows for listings of doctors near you.

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Category: Health & Fitness, Primary Care

About the Author ()

Central Ohio journalist with 15 years experience at daily newspapers. Freelance writer and amateur photographer. Storytellers are my heroes, poets my idols and photographers my looking glass.