Choosing a Physician
Choosing the right doctor is fundamental to good health. An established relationship with a physician might mean you get extra assistance in coordinating your health care, help managing expenses, and expedited care when needed. If you currently do not have a regular doctor, don’t wait until a serious health problem forces you to choose one. Start your search early to find a healthcare provider that you are comfortable with.
Choosing the Right Type of Doctor
The type of doctor you should see depends on both your current health and your medical history. Doctor’s services fall into two general categories: primary and specialty.
Primary care doctors are trained to treat a wide variety of conditions. These physicians focus on preventative and regular care for many diseases and illnesses. He or she will also know when to refer you to a specialist if needed. If you build and maintain a relationship with a regular primary care doctor, he or she can help to coordinate all aspects of your healthcare. Primary physicians will provide services such as:
- Routine check-ups and physical exams
- Lab tests
- Diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of illnesses
Specialty care doctors have additional training in a specific field of medicine. If your primary care doctor determines that you need extra care in a certain field, he or she may refer you to a specialist.
Evaluating a Specific Physician
Once you have narrowed your list of potential primary care physicians, it is a good idea to call their offices to ask some preliminary questions. Ask:
- Is the doctor accepting new patients?
- Are office hours convenient for your schedule?
- How far ahead does the doctor schedule appointments?
- Does the doctor accept payment from your insurance plan or Medicare?
To help finalize your decision, set up an appointment just to get acquainted with the doctor and staff. Before this meeting, try to put together a list of important questions for the doctor. If you have a chronic condition, ask if he or she has any expertise in that area. Also, ask which hospital the doctor is affiliated with. Remember, when you are choosing a doctor, you are also choosing a hospital for your treatment needs.
Benefits of a Regular Physician
Many people, especially the elderly and those with chronic conditions, find it comforting to continue seeing the same doctor. Your regular doctor will be able to follow you and to develop a comprehensive picture of your physical condition. Over time you will most likely establish a friendly relationship that can make doctor’s visits a more pleasant experience.