3 Tips for Choosing a Primary Care Doctor
Wondering why you need to choose a primary care doctor? Here are our tips to find a doctor who best meets the needs of you and your family.
A primary care doctor or Primary Care Physician (PCP) is a doctor who sees you for common medical problems, performs routine exams, and helps prevent or treat illness. Seeing the same doctor for most visits will help you establish a relationship that can improve your care—your primary care doctor will get to know you and your specific health needs, and you’ll have somewhere to go when you are sick.
But how do you choose a primary care doctor or PCP? And which type of doctors are PCPs, anyway? Consider these three factors when you’re ready to choose a primary care doctor for yourself or your family:
1. Find the best fit.
Think about which type of doctor is best for your needs—there are four main types of primary care doctors. Choosing the right one can depend on your age, gender, and health concerns:
- Family practice doctors – A family medicine doctor, also known as a general practitioner, can provide comprehensive medical care for people of all ages. If you want a one-stop-shop for the whole family, this can be a great option. These providers completed their residency in family medicine.
- Internal medicine doctors – A doctor who treats only adults, internal medicine physicians handle a broad range of illnesses and are equally qualified to provide preventive care. These providers dedicated much of their training to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of adult diseases.
- Pediatricians – If you have a child or family member younger than the age of 18, you’ll want to seek a pediatrician. These doctors specialize in childhood illnesses and preventive care for kids, such as immunizations and wellness checks.
- Obstetricians and Gynecologists (OB/GYNs) – Some women choose an OB/GYN as a primary care doctor as opposed to a family practice physician. For many women, this is a great option to get all the care they need in one place.
It’s also worth considering seeing a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner. These professionals can provide primary care services and prescriptions, and their services generally cost less than seeing a certified M.D.
2. Check with your health insurance plan.
Whether you use a website search or call a service like Select Health Member Advocates, it pays to choose a doctor who is in your network. Use your ID card to identify your network name and consider the types described above to narrow down your options. Seeing a doctor who participates on your health plan (known as being “in-network”) will make sure you get the best price and coverage for any care you receive.
3. Convenience is key.
Choose a doctor who is located near your home or office. By keeping it close to home, you’ll find it more convenient to make appointments, and you’ll be less likely to miss them or be late. Many people opt for a doctor near their workplace, so they can see a doctor on their lunch hour—but that may not be as helpful when you are home sick.
Already a member? Learn more about choosing the right type of care.