When you are selecting a primary care physician, you have a lot of options. As of 2019, there were almost 300,000 primary care physicians in the United States. However, finding one that is a good fit for your and your family’s needs can make things a bit trickier. In this article, we will review some of the biggest factors to consider when it comes to picking a primary care doctor.
- Consider your insurance coverage: Your insurance coverage will likely dictate the primary care provider that you can see and will often have a list of in-network providers. In-network providers are often less expensive than out-of-network providers. If you decide to choose an out-of-network provider, you will need to find out how to submit reimbursement requests to your insurance company or to your health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA). If you or a family member are on Medicare, you will need to check to make sure the provider accepts Medicare: around 93% of them do, however they may or may not accept new Medicare patients. You can use various online services Hella Health or Medicare.gov to double-check plans and doctors available.
- Consider your gender or language preferences: Some people feel more comfortable with a provider who is of their same gender. For example, some primary care providers perform gynecologic exams, and some females may feel more comfortable if this is done by a woman. In addition, some doctors are multilingual: if English is your second language and you are more comfortable in your primary language, you may be able to find a doctor who is also fluent in it.
- Consider the doctor’s accessibility: Doctor’s offices vary in the days and times that they are open. Some are open Monday through Friday during business hours only, while others are integrated into urgent care clinics and see patients seven days a week. If your schedule requires flexibility, you may want to choose a provider that is open more frequently.
- Consider the doctor’s practice size: Some primary care providers have a small practice as a solo practitioner, while others work with a team of other providers. Providers may include physicians (MDs and DOs), nurse practitioners (NPs), or physician assistants (PAs). If you are willing to see a non-physician provider, you should consider this when choosing your doctor’s practice. In addition, some doctor’s practices are integrated into hospital systems, which can make it easy for the hospital to access your records if you are ever admitted.
- Consider the doctor’s specialties: Even among primary care providers, there are many specialties, some of which provide additional board certifications for the physician. It is important to ask if your provider is trained or board-certified in one or more areas. Specialties include:
- Family practitioners, who can treat patients of any age
- Internists, who can treat adults
- Geriatricians, who are specially trained to treat seniors
- Pediatricians, who are specially trained to treat children