How to Choose a Primary Physician

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Your primary care physician is the gateway to maintain your medical health. This is the individual you will see most for wellness visits, routine screenings, and non-emergency care. Do not randomly pick your primary physician. Instead, take the time to ask questions and find someone you are comfortable speaking to and can trust.

Is the Physician In-Network?

Most health insurance providers have negotiated special rates with the physicians in your area to be included in their service provider network. Using the services of an “in-network” physician will result in less out-of-pocket expenses. Most health insurance companies have their list of in-network doctors listed on their website.

Where is the Physician Located?

It may be worth driving across town to see the physician you have come to know and trust the most. However, if all things are equal, consider selecting a doctor close to home. Not only will you reduce the time needed for your regular visits, but you may be more likely to visit your physician for non-emergency care.

Does the Physician have Visiting Rights?  

Before choosing a doctor, make sure they have visiting rights at your local hospital. As the physician who serves as the gatekeeper of your medical information, as well as knowing you personally, he or she is the most well-equipped individual to provide guidance to the hospital staff.

Is Lab Work Done On-site?

Physician offices providing on-site lab work and x-rays mean you will receive results faster than if you are required to use an independent facility. In some situations, deductibles or coinsurance may be waived reducing your total out-of-pocket expense.

Who Covers for the Physician?

Doctors take vacations and get sick too. If your primary care physician is out of the office, learn who will be covering for him or her. Offices with multiple doctors will cover each other if there is an absence while also having quick access to your medical file. Solo practices may have an arrangement with a fellow doctor to cover.

Ask for Referrals

A recommendation by a friend or family member may help you find a physician that meets your needs faster than selecting a doctor at random. You may also consider looking for recommendations from other medical professionals you already trust. If you are new to an area and don’t have the ability to obtain referrals, the internet can provide some insight about the primary care doctor you are considering. 

How is the Physician’s Service Level?

Referral sources are not only a great way to learn who might be a good personal fit, but also the service level of a physician. Ask friends or family whether it is difficult to get an appointment with the doctor, if there are long wait times before you are seen, and how insurance and payment processing works.

Schedule an Interview

The best way to find the right doctor is to interview one or two doctors who meet your primary requirements. Ask the physician about the items mentioned above as well as questions personally prepared by you. You can inquire about their position on prescribing medications, whether they encourage holistic methods, thoughts on diet plans, and any other questions that help determine your fit with them.

Selecting a primary care physician is a very personal experience. Take your time, ask questions, and seek out answers. Your good health depends on it.