6 tips for choosing your next primary care doc

6 tips for choosing your next primary care doc

For many, fall is a season for looking ahead.

The kids are back to school, summer travel is a distant memory, and the holidays are right around the corner. With employers offering annual benefits enrollment, some may also be thinking about choosing a new primary care physician (PCP).

Choosing a doctor can be a daunting task. You need someone you can, literally, trust with your life. You need someone who will see things in your health and history that you don’t. And, you need someone you can talk openly and honestly with.

“Honestly, a good doctor is a good partner,” says Dr. Paul Ringel, internal medicine physician at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “Your doctor is one of the few people who will know and understand you, inside and out. You really need someone you can trust.

“Seeing a PCP regularly is a proactive approach to your health. And, if you have an illness or health concern, your PCP can put it into the context of your whole life and health history.”

To help, Dr. Ringel says there are six things anyone should keep in mind when in the market for a new PCP:

  1. Suit your needs — To determine the PCP that might best fit you, you’ll need to think about what type of doctor will best fit your individual and family health needs. There are several medical specialties and board certifications to choose from:
    • Family medicine — Family practitioners are highly trained general medical practitioners who may provide medical, gynecological, pediatric and sometimes even surgical care for patients of any age. These doctors treat illnesses, provide preventive care and coordinate the care that may be provided by other specialty care physicians and health professionals.
    • Internal medicine — Typically, internal medicine physicians, or internists, are trained to treat any medical conditions that are not surgical or gynecological. Internists may also provide primary care for young adults, adults and seniors, providing preventative care and coordinating care with other medical specialists.
    • OB/GYN — Obstetricians and gynecologists care for women’s specific health needs, including reproductive care, pregnancy and childbirth. Some women choose to also see an OB/GYN for their primary care needs. However, women should consult with their OB/GYN to make certain they’re willing to take that role in care.
    • Pediatrician — Pediatricians are trained to care for the specific needs of growing infants, children and teenagers.
  1. Ask for recommendations — One of the best resources for a new doctor can be your own circle of family members and friends. In addition, the insurance coverage you’re considering — HMO, PPO, etc. — will determine the network of PCPs you have to choose from. Coverage may vary doctor to doctor, so be certain to make sure any doctor you’re considering accepts your insurance coverage.
  1. Well-connected — A physician’s hospital affiliation may also be valuable to know in the event you need more serious care. Choosing a PCP with a strong relationship with a reputable hospital provides access to specialties like cardiovascular care, cancer treatment and surgical services, if needed.
  1. Location, location, location — Having a doctor whose office is close to your work will help insure you make your regular appointments and make it easier to get into the office when you’re not feeling well. Also, check to make certain the office is open when you need it. Many physician practices not only offer expanded evening and weekend hours, but allow other practice physicians to see you if your chosen physician isn’t available.
  1. Pay a visit — Stop in and meet a physician you’re considering. Meeting the office staff, as well as the prospective doctor, will help you determine if they’re the right fit for you and your needs.
  1. In tune — Like any long-term relationship, your relationship with your PCP is ultimately based on trust and compatibility. Check language preferences, education and seriously consider if this is someone you can speak with openly. You’ll need to be able to communicate openly and directly with your physician, so make certain you’re completely comfortable with them.

“Your relationship with your doctor can be extremely important,” Dr. Ringel says. “Seeing your PCP regularly can help prevent minor issues from becoming major, and help you keep on top of existing health concerns. It’s important that you put care and thought into the decision and, hopefully, build a lasting relationship with your good health as the goal.”

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  1. My family and I are moving, and we don’t have many relatives in the area to help us get settled in. I think that along with getting to know the area, it’s important for me to have a good doctor that my family can visit. I really like what this article mentions about location, I can definitely see how this should play a big role when choosing which doctor might be best. It’s definitely something I’ll have to keep in mind, thanks for sharing!

  2. I really like how you said that, “With employers offering annual benefits enrollment, some may also be thinking about choosing a new primary care physician.” Open enrollment is very scary sometimes because the plans might change. My company just switch health care providers and now I have to find a new doctor that is in the network. Thanks for sharing these great tips that are going to help me find a new doctor.

  3. Lillian Schaeffer February 23, 2016 at 5:05 pm · Reply

    This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that family practitioners can help with general issues for any age. My husband and I just moved with our family to a new area, and I need to find a good doctor for us and for our children. I’ll definitely look for a good family medical doctor that can fulfill that role. Thanks for the great post!

  4. Thank you for the tips. My family and I just moved, so we will be looking for a new family doctor soon. I definitely like the idea of visiting the office before we make a firm decision. Is that something that doctors will be use to?

  5. No one wants to drive for half an hour to get to their doctor, so it is very important to pay attention to tip number four in this article. A lot of people might try to get the best doctor they can for their affliction, but it is important to remember that, unless they’re fairly close by, you might not even be able to make it them. As the article points out, it is better to find a doctor that is close to home or work so that you’re constantly reminded of the need to make appointments as well as being able to get their quickly.

  6. My family will be moving this summer to a new location. One of the things I am concerned about is finding a good PCP once we get there. I like your tip to visit the office and meet the doctor; I think you can tell whether it would be a good fit by talking with him or her. Thanks for all these ideas!

  7. Jeffrey Goodman April 6, 2016 at 11:34 am · Reply

    I definitely agree that finding the right physician depends on my needs. I will see what family doctor is best with my daughter. I will make sure that the location is pretty close to home so we can make regular appointments for her.

  8. Thanks for the reminder to look for a PCP that has a strong network with other physicians and a good hospital! I will make sure that I look into that because you never know when a serious health disaster will strike! I think that it’s best to be prepared in those kinds of situations, but it’s something that I might have forgotten to ask about. Thanks!

  9. You make a good point about understanding your needs before you start your search. I would think that it can be helpful to know what qualities you are looking for in a doctor so you can narrow down your search. I also like that you mention asking for recommendations from friends and family members. It seems like it could also be a good idea to read any online reviews and find out as much information about a doctor as you can.

  10. My family is trying to find a doctor to have on hand in case of emergencies. Thanks for the information about how internal medicine can treat anything that is not surgical or gynecological. I’ll have to see if I can find a doctor that practices internal medicine.

  11. Thanks for pointing out that you need to choose a primary care doctor that can see things in your health and history that you don’t. You also mention choosing a primary care doctor that best suits you, whether you need an OBGYN or a family medicine doctor. I think it’s a good idea to choose a primary care doctor that has great bedside manners so that you are comfortable being in their care.

  12. Choosing a doctor that specializes in a variety of medical needs, will give you a doctor who is well knowledged all around the spectrum. Thanks for posting.

  13. I agree that you would want to look for a primary care practitioner that is well connected. I would imagine that finding someone who is connected with other specialists could help protect you when things go wrong. I’m looking for a new doctor so I’ll have to be sure whoever I choose is well connected.

  14. A primary care doctor helps keep you healthy, provides a home base for all your medical needs, and is your go-to when you’re sick. A specialist has a deeper but narrower skill set, and may serve only a short-term purpose, like diagnosing a problem or designing a treatment regimen. BTW, i like how you wrote your content. Very informative and got a lot of sense!

  15. I agree that you would want to find a doctor that is located conveniently. I would imagine that you would want to find someone close by especially if your family has a busy schedule. My husband and I are looking for a new family physician so we’ll have to find someone who’s office is located near us.

  16. Thanks for bringing to my attention the value of recommendations when looking for a doctor. My wife and I just moved into a new area, and we need to find a good primary care physician we can take our family to. We don’t know a lot of people in this area yet, but maybe we could talk to coworkers and our new neighbors to see if they have any doctor recommendations we could check out.

  17. Precious Leyva April 24, 2017 at 3:06 pm · Reply

    I usually do ask for advice of family and friends when it comes to finding a primary care doctor. But it can be difficult for those moving to a new area and don’t know anyone. It might be a good idea to consult with neighbors as well as using internet resources.

  18. I hadn’t ever thought about the importance of choosing a doctor who has a strong relationship with a reputable hospital service in the area. I’ve heard, too, that you need to consider how full the doctor’s schedule is and how easy (or difficult) it may be to make appointments. I’ll be sure to keep this great information in mind as I try to find an awesome doctor to take care of me and my family.

  19. I liked that you pointed out that you should make sure that you have a good relationship with your doctor. It does seem like a good idea to have a doctor who I can feel free to talk to them about anything. After all, that will be the only way you can get the best help possible.

  20. I like how you say that you would want to find a physician that is located near your home or work. This would help you get to your appointment easier and not have to go out of the way. My husband and I are looking for a physician to help immunize our children, so we’ll have to find one nearby to visit.

  21. Thanks for suggesting you find a primary care provider who has a good relationship with the hospitals in your area. My family and I just moved to a new city, and we don’t have a doctor yet. I want to be sure that we’ll be able to more easily use the hospitals if we need to so I’ll have to find a primary care provider who does have that connection you discuss.

  22. My wife and I just moved and are looking for a new primary care doctor to start visiting regularly. I like that you suggest finding an office that is close to work in case you need to get there in a hurry. We want to always be prepared for an emergency so any way to cut down on commute time could help us a lot. Thanks for the tips!

  23. We just moved to a new area, and we don’t know how to find the best doctor here. I’m glad you talked about finding one that fits our needs. We have 2 daughters under the age of 5, so maybe we’ll start by looking for a doctor that could help them the most. If they are a family clinic, they should be able to help all of us at once. We’ll try that out.

  24. My wife and I just moved to a new town and are looking for a new primary care doctor to start visiting. I like that you suggest finding an office that is close to your home or work. This would definitely save us time and be invaluable if there is ever an emergency. Thanks for sharing!

  25. I like that you recommend to find a doctor that your insurance accepts. My wife and I recently moved to a new area and are looking for a doctor to take our children to. I’ll have to ask our insurance who they accept in my area.

  26. I really like that the first suggestion you make is to find a doctor that fits you and your family’s unique needs. For example, if you know that one of your kids has diabetes then you want to choose a doctor that specializes in that. It might help to interview any of the doctors you’re looking to hire and find out what kind of medicine they specialize in.

  27. I like that you provided some tips when choosing the right primary care doctor such as asking for recommendations. Your friends and family may be able to recommend someone whom they normally consult with. If they provide you nothing but praises about the clinic and the doctor, then it’s probably safe to assume that they are indeed reputable. If I were to choose a medical clinic and doctor for my family, I would make sure to take this into account. Thanks.

  28. Thank you for the 6 tips for choosing your next primary care doctor. I definitely like the idea to ask for recommendations. You want to be able to ask past and current patients about the treatment they received and how they liked the doctor.

  29. I like your advice to choose a doctor with an office that is close to you so that you can get to them easily when you’re not feeling well. It might also be a good idea to see if they offer home services in case you are ever unable to visit them when you’re too sick. Looking online would probably give you the chance to research the different doctors that are in your area so that you can find one that is near your work or home and will be able to provide the services you need to stay healthy.

  30. Dr. Sunil Nihalani June 1, 2018 at 1:20 am · Reply

    I appreciate your efforts, thanks for sharing the great information. These tips are necessary to choose the right primary care doctor. One more thing, a recommendation from someone you trust is a great way to identify a highly skilled, helpful physician. But remember: Every person is different. Just because a doctor was perfect for your neighbor or your best friend doesn’t mean that he or she is right for you. So, investigate about doctor before choosing him/her.

  31. I like the tip that you gave to choose a doctor who specializes in your field of need. My wife and I just moved to a new city, and we are looking for a new gynecologist for her. I will be sure to let her know that we should look for a doctor who specializes in gynecology, so we will be confident that they will offer a great amount of knowledge and help.

  32. Thank you for the tips. I like your advice.

  33. I like the tip that you gave to choose a doctor who is in a location that will be easily accessible. My wife and I have been talking about finding a new doctor because we moved into a new city, and it would be important for us to know that we will be able to save gas when we go. If we decide to find a new doctor, I will be sure to look for one who is located close to our new home.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.