It may be the most important health decision you make for you and your family. Sadly, too many people select a primary care physician for the wrong reasons or without any reason.
Live Longer and Healthier
Studies show that having a primary care doctor results in a healthier life. The Milbank Quarterly, a peer reviewed journal dealing with population health and health policy, reports that having a primary care doctor helps prevent illness and death. The study goes on to state that those with a primary care doctor actually live longer.
Why? According to the Milbank article, primary care, as opposed to specialty care, resulted in a “more equitable distribution of healthcare”. This makes sense. The more people with access to quality medical care, the healthier they will be.
Data from the journal, Scientific American, supports the Milbank study. They concluded that primary care increases life span and decreases death rates by preventing minor diseases from turning into major ones. For example, a strep throat treated quickly through primary care does not turn into a heart infection requiring advanced, specialized care.
Picking Your Primary Care Doctor
Selecting a doctor is not the same as choosing a mechanic to change the car’s oil or a plumber to clean out a drain. It’s about your family’s health and quality of life. With a little information, and by remembering these tips, you can screen and select your primary care doctor with confidence:
1 . Check your health plan’s list of primary care providers. Do they accept your plan insurance? Are they a preferred provider? If not, you may be responsible for a significant part of the cost, if not all of it.
2 . Determine the type of doctor you want based on your age, dependents and medical conditions. Many families have multiple primary care requirements and the ability to select from a group of medical specialties like Family Practitioners, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Obstetrics/Gynecology and Geriatrics can simplify your search.
As an example, a comprehensive provider like primary care doctors offers:
- Primary care including adult medicine, pediatrics and prenatal care
- Multiple locations, making it easier to schedule appointments close to work or home
- Access to specialties like cardiology, gastroenterology, behavioral medicine and geriatrics
- Acceptance of multiple insurance plans
A comprehensive primary care group can provide a medical home for the entire family.
3 . Ask for referrals. Generally, you can get referrals without too much trouble from:
- Friends, neighbors and co-workers who have used the doctor
- State medical associations or licensing groups
- You may find that your dentist or optometrist is familiar with the doctor and is willing to give an opinion
- Your health plan will probably have a directory, website or number to call where you can find patient reviews or comment about service they received from the doctor
- A note about referrals. You may find that some doctors are more than happy to supply these and others somewhat indifferent to the request. If they are indifferent, what does that tell you? Move on. Find another doctor
- Conduct a doctor interview. Don’t be intimidated. By making an appointment to see the doctor for an “interview” you will receive valuable information about the quality of service the staff provides, friendliness, communication with patients, willingness to discuss healthcare issues and if they treat patients with respect.
Don’t Leave It to Chance
Good healthcare is planned. It does not happen by chance. Don’t leave the selection of a primary care doctor to luck. By making a sound choice now, you can enhance the quality of life for your entire family for years to come.