Choosing your primary care physician has the potential to be one of the more important and, yes, life-changing decisions you will ever make. Traditionally, a primary care physician, whether specializing in internal medicine, family medicine, or pediatrics, is an active participant in your health decisions, guiding you during times of wellbeing and sickness. In times of wellbeing, they perform health maintenance visits (i.e., “check-ups”) and surveillance of wellness (e.g., vaccinations, screening blood work, etc.). In times of illness, they diagnose and treat conditions for the both short- and long-term. Having a doctor who knows you and your health history becomes essential to developing and maintaining a trusting relationship in which decisions about your health can be made in a nurturing environment.
A practical approach to selecting your primary care physician involves a few basic steps:
- Identifying through your health insurance provider which doctors are “in-network.”
- Finding a doctor that meets your specific health needs. There are several types of primary care physicians. Typically, internal medicine focuses on adult medicine and pediatrics focuses on children and adolescents. Family medicine represents a mixture of the two, as may treat patients of all ages.
- Asking around for referrals. Word of mouth is very powerful and, often, more reliable than reading reviews on the Internet. Finding a location that works for you. Do you want someone who practices near your work or someone located near your home?
- Depending on your specific needs, one or the other may work best for you and your family.
- Meeting the doctor. A face-to-face meeting will let you know whether your designated primary care practitioner is right for you. When you are at the office, take a good look around. Evaluate the office and staff. How are you greeted? Make a checklist of the staff’s efficiency, friendliness, and overall conditions of the office at which you will be receiving your care.
By following the above steps, you should be informed and ready to make a choice that is right for you. And if your needs change over time, you can change providers along the way to ensure the best physician to meet your health care needs.
Here’s to good health.