Tips for Choosing a Primary Care Physician

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Choosing a primary doctor is a very personal process. Each person has different criteria about what makes them comfortable when choosing a primary care physician.

It is helpful to determine the specific criteria that are important to you. The selection process may vary in length based on your personal criteria and it may be helpful to write down or verbalize what characteristics you would like to find in your primary care doctor. Is age, sex, education, language spoken, and specific temperament important to you? Are you looking for a small, medium or large practice? Should the doctor’s office be close to your home and are you looking for an urban or suburban environment? Do you want to receive care from the same doctor during each visit unless the doctor is on vacation? Do you mind receiving care from a team of professionals including a nurse practitioner, physician assistant, nurses and technicians? Do you want your physician to have certain specialized experience, including geriatric expertise? IMG_1151.JPG

Geriatrician as a primary care doctor

Seniors looking for a new primary care physician may want to consider a geriatrician. Geriatricians are physicians who are experts in assessing, diagnosing, and treating older persons. After medical school, they perform their initial training in the specialties of either family practice or internal medicine. After this, they complete at least one extra year of specialty training by completing a geriatrics fellowship. Geriatricians are knowledgeable in treating patients who have multiple medical problems. They are specifically trained in how these ailments affect the physical and emotional health of an elderly person. For example, falls, incontinence, memory problems, depression, and side effects/interactions from taking many medications are all issues often addressed by geriatricians. They also are comfortable discussing end of life issues with patients and their families, including living wills, advanced directives, and goals of care. 
           

Geriatricians can help evaluate one’s living situation to offer modifications or services that can make home life both easier and safer. Additionally, they can help people decide which living situation is best if an elderly person is having trouble managing his or her own care at home. An internist may also be a good choice in coordinating healthcare issues for seniors.

Questions to Ask Doctors

Certain questions to ask a prospective doctor or practice are:

  1. What are your hours?
  2. Who do I call when your office is closed or when you are on vacation?
  3. Will I see the same primary physician at each visit?
  4. Will other safe members be present during the visit?
  5. What do I need to do to prepare for my first and subsequent visits?
  6. How do I communicate with you in-between visits, for example texting, answering machine, office staff, nursing staff, etc.
  7. Do you use technology to leave messages or deliver lab results?
  8. Can I talk to a reference about your practice?
  9. Do you plan on retiring any time in the near future?
  10. Can I switch doctors or see another member of your staff including nurse practitioners and physician assistants if I choose to change my main practitioner?

How to find a primary care physician

There are number of ways to find a primary care physician, including:

  • Talking to friends and family members. Asking the people you trust the most is often the best way to locate a primary care physician who will meet your needs. 
  • Call your insurance provider or visit their website. Many insurance companies will list the providers that are covered in your area.
  • Research local health networks. Big healthcare networks will often list all their family doctors on their website with reviews from patients.

It is important to take time in choosing a primary physician. This individual is the ombudsman in coordinating your healthcare needs. Your primary physician is an individual who is a key player in helping you navigate the healthcare system