Educational health information to improve your well-being.

Perfect Match: How to Choose the Right Primary Care Doctor

September 7, 2017
Published in: General, Men, Patient, Women

Female patient sitting with a doctor

Your primary care doctor is someone that's going to be a trusted expert, confidant, and health advocate for you and your family. It's a unique relationship that can span a lifetime. Whether you're seeking a primary care doctor for the first time, have moved to a new area, or want to make a change, we can help you choose the right primary care doctor.

Understanding Primary Care

Happy family walking through the woods

Primary care is the first point of medical care you'll receive for undiagnosed symptoms, disease prevention, continual care for acute or chronic illness, and overall health maintenance. Doctors that provide this type of care are divided into two categories:

Family Practice

These doctors treat all ages from infants to the elderly. They are considered medical "generalists" which means they are trained to treat a broad scope of medical issues.

Internal Medicine

A doctor specializing in internal medicine usually only treats adults. They focus on preventive medicine, diagnosing disease, and treatment of disease or other chronic illnesses.

At some offices, nurse practitioners or physician assistants may also provide medical care.

The Nuts and Bolts

When you begin your search for a primary care doctor, it's important to consider practical matters such as:

  • Insurance

    • Do you have an insurance plan that works with "in-network" doctors, or are you free to choose any doctor you like? Choosing an in-network doctor helps you receive maximum savings from your insurance plan. Contact your insurance carrier to determine which providers are covered for your specific plan.
  • Location

    • Is it more convenient to have a doctor close to your home or close to your work?
    • Is the location easy to get into and out of with plenty of parking?
  • Accessibility

    • How far in advance do you have to call to schedule an appointment?
    • Does your doctor offer extended office hours during the week?
    • Does your doctor have weekend hours and/or on-call services so they can be reached in case of emergency?
    • Does your doctor offer online portals or email options to ensure prompt communication?
  • Staff and Services

    • Is the staff friendly and willing to answer your questions?
    • What services are available on-site (i.e. labs and x-rays)?
    • Is the facility fully staffed?
    • How closely are appointment times adhered to?
    • What is the process for transferring medical records from a previous provider?

Interviewing Your Primary Care Doctor

Doctor talking with a male patient

Choosing the right doctor is an important decision that will impact your health for years to come. Doctor's that are right for you will be willing to answer preliminary questions you have about your health and their services. Here are a list of questions you'll want to consider when interviewing a potential primary care doctor:

  • Why did he/she want to become a doctor?
  • Is the doctor board certified? A board-certified doctor has trained and been tested for competency in a specialty and completed a residency.
  • Is the doctor part of a larger hospital group?
  • What medical school did the doctor attend?
  • How long has the doctor been in practice?
  • Does the doctor practice primary care and preventive medicine?
  • Will the doctor handle referrals to specialists and any coordinating care that's needed?
  • Who cares for the doctor's patients is he/she isn't available?
  • How much time does the doctor spend with you during an appointment?
  • Based on your specific health needs and concerns, how does the doctor think they can help you?

Choosing a primary care doctor is an important step in maintaining lifelong health. The right primary care doctor is your trusted medical expert and compassionate health advocate. Being diligent in your search can ensure you choose the perfect match for your needs! Search our provider directory for a primary care provider.