Putting Your Health in Good Hands: The Top Tips for Choosing a Primary Care Doctor

doctor filling up a medical form

Choosing a primary care doctor is an extremely important and often difficult decision to make. The doctor you choose will be responsible for your overall health, so you want to make sure you select not only an excellent doctor but also one that is the right doctor for you.

Many factors should play a part in this decision. It is not one that should be made carelessly or without much research and consideration. Read on to find out all about the things you should have on your mind when choosing your next primary care physician.

Tips for Choosing a Primary Care Doctor

If you've moved to a new area, have switched insurance plans, your doctor retired or you just decided it is time for a different doctor, then you will be on the hunt for a new one. 

Although the selection process is an important one, it's crucial that you establish care with a new doctor as soon as you can. Seeing your primary care doctor for check-ups on a regular basis will ensure that you stay happy and healthy for years to come. 

If you come down with even a simple illness, you will be glad that you established care with a primary doctor beforehand, so don't delay.

Ideally, you should stick with a primary care doctor for many years. That way, he or she can get to know you and your health history well. If and when problems do arise, the best care can be provided.

Also, when you have a long term relationship with a physician, he or she can prescribe effective, personalized preventative care for you as well. 

You and your primary care doctor will share a long term relationship over the years ahead. In many ways, it will be one of the most important relationships you have.

Because of this, there are many things you should consider when choosing your doctor.

How to Find and Select a Primary Care Doctor

When it comes to finding a primary care doctor, many people don't even know how to begin. How do you know what doctors are the best? You don't want to get stuck with a doctor who is inexperienced, has a terrible bedside manner, or worst of all is being sued for medical malpractice.

It's vital that you do your research. As your friends and co-workers about their primary care doctors. If they have one that they love, they'll be more than happy to recommend him or her.

Also, be sure to read online reviews. The internet offers many sites that review doctors and you can learn a lot from them. Once you have found a doctor you think you might like, check several sites for ratings and reviews on him or her. 

Don't forget to check and make sure that the doctor you are considering is board certified, too. This is easy to do through the Certification Matters site created by the American Board of Medical Specialties.  

A board-certified doctor is not only licensed by his or her state but also took exams to prove his or her abilities in their field. In order to remain certified, doctors must complete ongoing professional development to stay up to date on the latest advancements in diagnosis and treatment.

Make Sure You're Covered

Once you've found a few potential doctors, you need to make sure their services are covered by your insurance plan before moving forward. You don't want to get hit by hefty out of network charges.

Fortunately, for most plans, this is easy to determine with a simple internet search. If you are unable to get a solid answer there, give the doctor's office a call, and the receptionists will be happy to help confirm or deny coverage for you.

Other Things to Consider

There are several other things to keep in mind, too.

You want to find a doctor that suits your specific needs. Most people seek out a family practice doctor or a general practitioner for their primary care doctor. These doctors can see patients of all ages, and have experience with a broad range of ailments and conditions.

On the other hand, if you have a pre-existing condition, you may want an internal medicine physician or other specialists. These types of doctors treat adults and are skilled at diagnosing and treating people with specific diseases or chronic conditions. For example, if you have asthma, you may want to find a primary care doctor that specializes in respiratory conditions, a pulmonologist.

Also, you want to make sure that the doctor is accessible to you. This means finding a doctor who is located near you so you can get to easily when you are not feeling well. Use a map website to see how long it will take to get to the office and make sure the commute will be convenient for you.  

If you work, you may also want to check the doctor's hours and which days he or she sees patients. Many people like to go to check-ups before or after work instead of taking time off, so it's good to know if your doctor is available at those times.

Visit the Doctor

Finally, after all of that, it's time for the most important step of all. Make an appointment, and go meet the doctor.

Before you even get called into the exam room, you will be able to get a good feel for the personality of the doctor in the waiting room. Observe the way the room is decorated, and how the receptionists greet you. If it's a good fit, you should feel welcomed right away.

When you meet the doctor, you'll likely be able to tell in a short time whether he or she is the kind of doctor you like. You should feel comfortable and his or her presentation should be professional. Remember, you want to be able to tell this person anything about your body and health that is bothering you for years to come.

Ask lots of questions and get to know the doctor. Consider inquiring about his or her reasons for becoming a doctor, favorite parts of being a doctor, and what he or she wants most from you. You can also ask logistical questions such as how prescription refills are handled or which hospital the doctor uses when patients need to be admitted.

If it doesn't feel right, don't feel bad. Also, don't just stick with a doctor who you only kind of like just because you have had one visit. Your doctor's feelings will not be hurt if you decide that after one visit you want to try someone else.

Happy Doctor Hunting

Choosing a primary care doctor isn't easy, but when you find one that you like, it can actually be life-changing, so it's worth the effort to search. It's vital that you find a doctor that is experienced, professional and right for you.

Your new doctor should put you at ease, answer your questions thoroughly yet in a clear and easy to understand manner and give you ample time without rushing you out. Once you have found one with all these things, you have found a new doctor - maybe for the rest of your life.  Good luck.

To find out more about doctors and finding excellent health care options for you and your family, check out the News and Specialties sections of our site. 


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