Choosing your primary care physician has the potential to be one of the most important decisions you will make. Typically, a primary care physician specializes in internal medicine, family medicine, or pediatrics, and serves as an active participant in your health care decisions.
Whether you have an HMO or PPO insurance plan, your primary care physician serves as your guide and helps to coordinate your care during times of well-being and sickness. In times of well-being, they perform health maintenance visits (e.g., “check-ups”) and surveillance of wellness (e.g., vaccinations, screening blood work). 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 is 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:
- Identify through your health insurance plan which doctors are “in-network.”
- Find a doctor that meets your specific health care needs. There are several types of primary care physicians:
- Internal Medicine – focuses on adults
- Family Medicine – treats patients of all ages
- Pediatrics – provides care for children and adolescents
- Ask around for referrals, as word of mouth is very informative. Review physician bios and do your research.
- Find a location that works for you. Do you want someone who is located near your work or close to home?
- Once you have made your decision, inform your insurance company of the physician you select and schedule your annual well-check appointment with your new doctor.
By following the above steps, you should be informed and able to make a choice that is right for you and your family. And if your needs change over time, you can change physicians along the way to ensure the best physician to meet your health care needs.