How to choose Primary Care

How to Choose Your Primary Care Physician

Primary care is an important part of physical health management. Your primary care physician’s office will act as your medical home base. Here, you’ll have access to medical care for the majority of your medical needs. These may include routine checkups, physicals, and non-urgent sicknesses. You’ll visit your primary care office when you experience a persistent sore throat or an ear infection. You’ll be guided through your illnesses, questions, and worries.

But studies in the medical health world show that primary care services have dropped by 2% in just over one decade. While this might seem like an incredibly low number, it amounts to millions of Americans. Meanwhile, similar studies have shown that patients with primary care providers are happier with the healthcare they receive than patients who choose walk-ins or retail clinics. So, why are so many adults going without primary care?

It may be due to a location change, a loss or change in insurance coverage, or confusion about where to start. No matter what is preventing you, this is a barrier we can help you overcome. Your relationship with your primary care physician is important. You’ll need to be able to have open conversations with them, be sure that they meet your specific health needs, and that your insurance will ease the financial burden for you.

Here are a few tips to help you choose your next primary care physician:

Find primary care doctor in your network

If you have health or dental insurance, you likely already know what “in-network” means. Your insurance provider has worked out discounted rates with these particular providers. That means you’ll save a lot on out-of-pocket costs. There will be plenty of knowledgeable, experienced, and caring providers that are within your network. And finding them will help you narrow down a list to choose from. You can find out which providers are in your network by calling the number on the back of your health insurance card.

Choose a doctor that will meet your needs

Once you have a list of providers in your network, you can narrow it down to the right one. But primary care covers a lot of ground. You’ll see family practices on the list, pediatricians, general practices, and internal medicine offices. Choose depending on what your needs are. If you’re looking for a primary care physician that can treat the whole family for a wide array of conditions, begin by searching through family practices.

General practices often have similar offerings but may offer additional, advanced treatment options. If you’re looking for preventative treatment, diagnoses, or condition management, an internal medicine office may be better suited to meet your needs. Once you choose a category, you can call their office or search their website for more information on their specific offerings.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Many patients find it easier to get comfortable with a primary care physician that a friend or relative recommends. Don’t be afraid to ask a few people you trust who they use for their primary care needs. You can also talk to other healthcare professionals you trust, like your OBGYN or dentist. If you’re searching for a new primary care provider because you or your current doctor are moving, you can ask them for a recommendation, too. 

Consider the details

When you’re searching for a new primary care provider, how far are you willing to travel from your house or office? Are they open during convenient times for you? Do they offer evening or weekend appointments if you have schedule restrictions? These are a few questions that you’ll want to know the answers to before you choose your new primary care physician. You can use your in-network directory or phone call to find providers that meet your location and availability requirements.

Visit a primary care practice that checks all your boxes

Now that you’ve done all of your searchings and found a physician that aligns with your needs, it’s time to schedule a visit. This is the best way to determine if you’ve made the right choice. Your doctor needs to be a person that you feel you can trust, speak honestly with, and rely on for most of your healthcare needs. Having an introductory conversation with them will help you determine how good a fit it will be.

Use this time to get acquainted, ask questions, and discuss your medical history. Take a moment to evaluate the space and the other staff members. Was everyone you encountered polite and kind? Are incoming calls being answered? How long does it take to get an appointment? Once you’ve crossed this initial visit off of your list (as long as it went well), you’ve found your new primary care physician!