Whether you just got new insurance, recently moved, or are just ready for a change, selecting a primary care physician is an important first step toward managing your healthcare. Your primary care provider is your medical “home.” It’s the provider you visit for most medical needs, including wellness visits and routine screenings, non-emergency illnesses like earaches and sore throats, and the person you speak to about your health questions and concerns.
Some patient-primary care relationships can span decades, while others will be short-lived because you change insurance or move. No matter how long you plan to see your primary care provider, the relationship is an important one. You’ll want to select someone you feel comfortable having honest conversations with, someone with expertise in the areas that meet your health needs, and someone who is “in-network” for your health insurance plan.
Here are five tips for choosing a new primary care physician:
1. Determine Which Doctors Are “In-Network”
Most health plans have negotiated special, discounted rates with certain clinics and hospitals in your area, and you will pay less out of pocket for visiting those clinics, which are called “in-network” for insurance purposes. Ensuring that you select an “in-network” doctor will help you avoid a surprise “out-of-network” charge or having to pay in full out of pocket because the doctor you’ve selected doesn’t accept your insurance plan.
2. Find a Provider with Expertise that Meets Your Health Needs
Now that you have the list of in-network clinics, you can begin narrowing it down. There are several different types of clinics that will be identified as primary care – typically Family Practice, Internal Medicine, or General Practice. There are also doctors who focus on children, called Pediatricians, who will serve as the primary care physician for your child.
- Family Practice – Family practice providers are able to treat patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly. They are generalists who can treat a wide variety of conditions, and often can also treat ailments you’d normally see a specialist for, like sports injuries or some women’s health needs. This is what Cape Family Medical Clinic and Perryville Family Medical Clinic are!
- Internal Medicine – Internal medicine physicians typically treat adults and specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, and management of disease and chronic conditions.
- General Practice – General Practice physicians are like family practice physicians and can treat patients of any gender or age. This category is one area where you might also find osteopaths, which are physicians that practice a type of alternative medicine with a special focus on the musculoskeletal system and are distinguished by the “D.O.” after their name instead of “M.D.”
3. Ask for Referrals
Many people feel most comfortable visiting a provider who is recommended by someone they know, like a family member, co-worker, or friend. Ask around and see what doctor your friends and family visit. You can also ask another healthcare professional with whom you have a relationship, like a women’s primary care physician, a pharmacist, or even your dentist for a recommendation. If you’re moving, ask your current doctor if they have a recommendation for your new location. You can also check Google for reviews as well as Facebook.
4. Think About Logistics
Do you want a provider located close to your home or office? Search for clinics with an office location that is convenient for you to visit. You’ll also want to consider office hours – what days and times does the clinic see patients? Will you need to take time off work to visit the office, or can you go after work or on weekends? It’s also a good idea to check what hospital the doctor admits patients to.
Language is another important factor to check. You need to be able to communicate clearly with your provider, so check which languages he or she speaks to be sure you’ll be able to understand each other. Many doctors now use email or an online portal to communicate with patients, which may be another item of importance to tech-savvy communicators when selecting a physician.
5. Visit the Clinic
Nothing can really give you a feel for whether you’ve selected the right clinic like an office visit and a face-to-face meeting. Be sure you feel comfortable in the office and with the provider and nurses. Your primary care provider should be someone you trust and can rely on to help manage your healthcare. Talk with them about any current medications you are taking and your medical history to be sure you are on the same page when it comes to managing any chronic conditions.
When in the office, you should evaluate other environmental factors. Take into account the demeanor of the people who answer the phone and greet you when you walk in – are they efficient and friendly? Are the phones answered in a timely manner? How far in advance do you need to schedule an appointment? And how long is the wait to see the provider after you arrive for your appointment?
All of these factors are important when selecting a new clinic and a new provider. At Cape Family Medical Clinic and Perryville Family Medical Clinic, we strive to be the best we can be for our patients every day. We make ourselves available to take the time to learn about our patient’s needs and concerns and work diligently to address each issue. We also pride ourselves on the fact that we see all of our patients within 24 hours of making an appointment. We never make our patients wait weeks for their medical care.
If you are ready to schedule your appointment you can call us directly at 573-332-7992 and select option 1 or visit our website by clicking here.
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