by Heath Reid


Finding the right health care provider requires research
and planning for your future needs. Selecting the right physician for you is important for managing your overall health. You need someone you trust who will be proactive about your care.

Your primary care physician (PCP) is your medical home base. They will provide for your annual wellness checkups, routine screenings, and non-emergency illnesses. You should also rely on
them to refer you to specialists who can address any advanced medical needs. You will form a close relationship with your PCP that can allow you to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Here are some tips on how to find the right physician for you.

Find a Physician Who Is In-Network
Most health insurance companies only cover the majority of health care costs when services are provided by “in-network” doctors and medical facilities. For health insurance purposes, “in-network” means that your insurance company has a contract, or agreement, with the doctor regarding how much they will pay for specific services. If you go to an “out-of-network” provider, you may have to pay for all of the charges out of pocket.

You can usually find an in-network doctor by searching on your insurance company’s website or by calling their customer service phone number. You can typically find multiple options within your search area. Once you narrow down your choices to in-network doctors, you can evaluate each of them to determine which one would be best for you.

Determine If You Need a Doctor That Specializes
There are several different types of doctors who can serve as your primary care physician. You might consider whether you want the same physician for everyone in your family, or if you need someone who specializes in a specific type of medicine. You can review what types of medicine each doctor practices on their website, through notes on your insurance company’s in-network list or by calling their office and asking about their specialties.

Common doctors who can serve as PCPs include the following:
» Pediatricians – These doctors focus on children from birth
through late adolescence. Some pediatricians treat young
adults in their 20s as well.
» Family Practice Physicians – These doctors treat patients of all ages, from newborns through the elderly. They can treat a wide variety of non-emergency conditions, including many ailments you would normally need a specialist for, such as women’s health needs.
» Internal Medicine Physicians – These doctors typically only treat adults. They specialize in the prevention and diagnosis of diseases. They also help manage chronic conditions such as diabetes.
» General Practice Physicians – These doctors are similar to family practice physicians. They treat patients of all ages. General practice physicians may specialize in alternative medicine, traditional medicine or even have a special focus like the musculoskeletal system. They have a “D.O.” after their name instead of an “M.D.”

Whichever type of doctor you opt for, it’s important that you make sure they can provide the specific kind of services you need.

Ask for Referrals and Look at Reviews
It’s important to find a doctor who has a good bedside manner
and who will give you the time that you need. You can often find information like that by asking friends and family if they have recommendations and by looking at reviews on Google and other websites.

If you have friends and family who are local to you, it can be helpful to ask them if they have a favorite PCP in the area. Cross-reference their referrals with in-network providers according to your health insurance company.

When you search the name of a doctor in Google, you might find that current and former patients have left reviews for them. You should scrutinize these reviews and make note of any positive and negative aspects that people have discussed. These reviews often offer honest insight into how the practice operates, customer service practices and bedside manner.

Meet With the Doctor Face-to-Face
No matter how much information you obtain prior to visiting your doctor for the first time, you’ll never know how you feel about them until you meet them face-to-face. You should be on alert and try to assess how comfortable the office is. You should feel at ease with the physician, nurses and all office staff.

Talk to the doctor about your current medications and your medical history. Make sure you are on the same page with how your chronic health conditions will be managed. Do they feel comfortable treating your conditions, or would they send you to a specialist? Try to determine how often they will want to see you in-office, considering your existing conditions.

Before meeting with your doctor, prepare a list of questions that you will ask them. They should give you plenty of time to ask anything you wish and provide adequate answers that make you feel comfortable.

Some questions you should ask a new doctor include the following:
» How much time do you schedule with each patient for a typical visit?
» How far in advance will I need to schedule routine wellness exams?
» Do you have experience treating my specific conditions?
» Are you familiar with the medications I take?
» Which hospitals are you associated with?
» What is the process for after-hours care? Who is on call, and how to I reach them?
» Who takes care of patients when the doctor is away?
» What routine wellness tests do you recommend annually?

There will likely be additional questions you will want to ask depending on your specific pre-existing conditions and the medications you take.

Choose a Physician Who Checks All the Boxes
Many issues need to be considered when selecting a new physician for yourself, a child or a family member. It’s important that you find someone who meets all of your needs. Find someone who can provide the best care, is local to you and fits within your budget. When you find the perfect match, you will be more likely to see the doctor when necessary