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In your journey for better health, your primary care physician (PCP) is your best ally. Your PCP is your go-to resource for any non-emergency, health related ailment. Annual check ups, sore throats, injured knee, these are all things that you’d first consult with your primary care physician.

With such an important role in your well being, it’s important that you find a primary care physician that you really like and trust. But how can you find such a doctor? Is it as easy as doing a Google search for a doctor in your zip code? For some, that might be how they found a doctor, but most people weight several additional factors in their decision.

If you’re looking for a new primary care physician, here’s a few things you should look out for when choosing your doctor.

Is the Doctor In Network?

Your health insurance plan will come with a network of in-network doctors. Health insurance companies negotiate discounts with different doctors and include them in their network. If a doctor is in a health insurance’s network, it means they’ll accept the health insurance from that carrier. That’s why the doctor that’s located across from your office, might not be available through your health insurance.

If you’re paying for health insurance, it’s important that you find a primary care physician that accepts your health insurance. Otherwise, you’ll be paying higher rates for visits and medication than you would if you were going to an in-network doctor.

Does the Doctor Meet Your Health Needs?

Different doctors have different areas of concentration, just like individuals have different medical needs. When you’re choosing your primary care physician, you don’t have to worry about specialists like a podiatrist. There are a few different types of primary care physicians you should consider.

Family Practice

If you have a family, this is the type of doctor you would look at. A family practice doctor is able to treat patients of all ages. This can range from newborn children to elderly adults. Along with the broad range of patients a family doctor sees, doctors in family practices are able to treat many different conditions. This allows them to diagnose and treat most of your health concerns.

Internal Medicine

An internal medicine doctor usually treats adults. They specialize in health prevention, management of chronic diseases. They’re also very capable at complex diagnoses

General Practice .

General practice doctors (GP) are very similar to family practice doctors. They can treat a wide array of conditions and any age or gender. One difference you might find with a GP rather than a family doctor is they can include osteopaths. These doctors have a focus on the musculoskeletal system. An osteopath is not an M.D., they have the initials D.O. behind their name.

Is the Doctor Referred by Friends?

Like any other purchase decision you might make, ask your friends. We solicit advice and counsel from trusted friends and colleagues for everything. Where to stay on vacation, what computer to buy, which house cleaner to hire are all things we look for advice on. It makes sense that we seek out the opinions of friends when choosing a primary care physician.

Some people absolutely love their doctor. People will choose specific health insurance plans just to make sure their doctor is in-network. If people love their doctor that much, you want to know about that doctor. Start your search with a note to some of your most trusted friends and see what they have to say.

Logistics of Location

Getting to the doctor’s office can be a hassle. You have to take time out of your busy workday to visit the doctor. You can’t afford to waste time and drive across town just to see a doctor. That can make a simple doctor visit a three hour excursion during work.

Consider the location of the doctor’s office compared to your job and your home. Are you more likely to visit the doctor straight from your home or your office? If you think you’ll try to squeeze mid-day visits in, find a doctor near your office. If you think you’d prefer to start or end your day at the doctor, find a doctor near your home.

Contact the Office and Make an Appointment

Once you’ve found a doctor that you’re interested in, make an appointment. See what it’s like first-hand. Is the office well managed? Do you like the administrators and the nurses? Are you comfortable with the doctor? This is the most important part of the process.

If you’re not comfortable with the doctor, you won’t be as open as you should about your health. There are some things you can’t judge based on an internet review. Talk to the doctor face-to-face and then determine if that’s the right doctor for you.

Your primary care physician will be your best friend, medically speaking. You’ve taken the time to choose the perfect healthcare plan, now make the time to find the right primary care physician. It’s an important decision that will affect your future health. Ask yourself these five questions when you’re in the search process and you’ll find a great primary care physician you’ll love.

Image Courtesy of Ilmicrofono Oggiono

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