Tips to Choose Your Primary Care Physician

You need to consider a lot of factors when choosing a primary care physician. Here, we provide you with all the information you need to choose a physician that's right for you.

One of the most important steps in maintaining good health is visiting your doctor or primary care physician (PCP) for regular health check-ups. You need to put in a lot of thought when finding a physician who is best suited to your needs. Factors like years of experience, specialty, health insurance plans, and a numerous other things will help you decide who's best for you and your family. He is the one you will depend on in times of need, from a stuffy nose to a broken leg. If you suffer from a serious ailment, your PCP can refer you to a specialist in that particular field. Most insurance companies too require patients to have a PCP.

Types of Primary Care Physicians

Primary care physicians primarily belong to the following categories:

Internal Medicine: Doctors who are board certified in internal medicine are eligible to treat children and adults, and may be qualified to perform minor surgeries.

Family Medicine: Physicians belonging to Family Medicine are qualified to treat the entire family. Their specialty can include Pediatrics, OB/GYN, or Internal Medicine.

Pediatrics: These doctors are board certified to treat children from infancy through adolescence.

OB/GYN: Obstetricians and gynecologists usually act as PCPs for women.

Nurse Practitioners and Physician's Assistants: They work with physicians, but undergo a different certification program than doctors. They are trained and qualified in primary care.

Tips to Choose a Primary Care Physician

You should choose a doctor who accepts your health insurance. Most doctors accept all major health plans. Check with the doctor's office about your plan type and coverage.

Check the doctor's qualifications and professional affiliations. Verify that he is board certified in his respective field. Gather information on what medical school he attended, number of years he has been practicing, if he has ever been disciplined, if he has any complaints or malpractice suits filed against him, etc. Visit the American Board of Medical Specialties website to verify your doctor's credentials.

Proximity to your home or office is a major deciding factor. You should be easily able to reach the doctor's office, especially if you have children. If you have moved to a new place, ask your current PCP so he/she can help you or refer a PCP close to your neighborhood.

The office timings are equally important. Make sure they suit your schedule. Inquire whether the office is open 7 days a week, and what time of the day they usually work.

Ascertain that the doctor you want to visit is accepting new patients and make sure that appointments are readily available. You do not want to wait long over the phone to schedule an appointment, nor await your turn in a crowded waiting room. Ask whether the doctor's office allows walk-ins as well, in case you are pressed for time. You may want to find out if they offer advice on phone in cases when visiting the office is not a viable option. Find out if the physician can be contacted in case of an emergency, and the procedure for the same. Consider these points when selecting a PCP.

You would like the doctor to be friendly and compassionate. He or she should hear you out and offer detailed explanations to your worries and concerns, as well as encourage you to come forth with all your doubts. You can always request an interview with a potential PCP so you can find out more about his personality and his approach in dealing with patients. Talking to him will give you a fair idea what his views on disease treatment and prevention are. You should be comfortable talking to the doctor about all your medical issues. Decide if you want to go in for a male or female doctor. Trust your instinct. If you do not feel right about certain things, do not choose the doctor as your PCP.

Seek referrals from relatives, friends, and coworkers or even other health care professionals. These are people whose advice you can rely upon while selecting a PCP. What these people say can have a direct impact in your selection.

Find out if the doctor you choose is affiliated to a hospital. If yes, find out how far the hospital is from your home.

If your family has members with special needs or if you have children, you may want to choose a PCP with a specialty, rather than a general physician.

Find out if the doctor's office caters to particular language and cultural needs. Language can be a major barrier and so it is important that the doctor communicates with you in a language you are comfortable with.

Ask the doctor if they provide online services. Emailing your doctor, scheduling appointments online, and being able to view test results on the Net can prove to be very convenient for you as a patient.

Remember, a doctor-patient relationship is based on trust and openness. Do not start looking for a primary care physician after you have fallen sick, for it could be a long process. Do your research and find one when you are healthy, and schedule an appointment so you can meet the physician for a health checkup. Go for checkups regularly, so in case you fall sick any time, your doctor already knows your medical history, which can be a time saver. Establish a bond with your doctor. It goes a long way in maintaining good health and overall well-being.

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