Wellness Blog

9 Things To Consider When Looking For A Primary Care Doctor

Jul 27, 2018 8:00:00 AM / by The Essential Health and Wellness Team

I Need A New Doctor – What Do I Do Now?

Many of the important decisions you make in your life involve your health and wellness. Not least of all of these decisions is choosing a primary care doctor.

If you’ve recently moved to a new area, started a new job with new insurance benefits or had to leave your previous provider for any other reason, you may be in the business for a new primary care doctor that is similar to your old practice. You also may be looking for a new practice that is more compatible with your needs.

Looking for a new doctor can be overwhelming.

There are hundreds of doctor’s offices out there, but there are so many questions to answer:

  • Which practices are accepting new patients?
  • Which practices are in-network for your insurance agency?
  • Are you looking for conventional medicine, functional medicine or an integrative approach?
  • Are you considering the direct primary care model, or do you need concierge service?
  • Do you need a specific kind of doctor or specific services, like weight management or OB-GYN?

Once you’ve discovered what providers are in and out of network, it can be hard to figure out what to do next.

There are a few things to consider when seeking out a new doctor and a few ways to narrow down the intensely important search for your new primary care provider.

Here are 9 things to do before you choose to switch to a primary care practice:

  1. Seek Referrals
  2. Do Your Research
  3. Look for Board Certification
  4. Know What You Need
  5. Schedule an Intro or Tour
  6. Pay Attention
  7. Evaluate the Staff
  8. Don’t Go Alone
  9. Consider Compatibility

1. Seek Referrals

One of the best ways to find a doctor that will be right for you is to ask friends and family who they recommend (and who they don’t recommend).

Talk to the friends and family who live in your area and approach health and wellness in a similar way, and find out what practices they’ve had success with and struggled with.

Word-of-mouth referrals are incredibly valuable. However, don’t assume that your health and wellness priorities are necessarily the same as your friend’s.

Even after receiving referrals, do additional research into the practices that were recommended and the practices that are available to you. Your friend’s impression of a doctor or practice might not be the same as yours.

2. Do Your Research

Once you’ve got a list of doctors who are in-network and perhaps even come recommended by friends, do your research into their education backgrounds, research experience and specialties.

Although where your doctor went to school certainly isn’t the most important factor, you do want to know where they studied and where they did your residency.

If you are struggling with specific issues or have specific needs, it is helpful to find a doctor who has a background that matches up with your personal concerns.

3. Look for Board Certification

While doing your research, also check to see if your doctor is board certified.

If a doctor is board certified by the American Board of Medical Specialities, that means the doctor is qualified in the following ways:

  • Earned a medical degree from a qualified medical school
  • Completed three to seven years of accredited residency training
  • Licensed by a state medical board
  • Passed one or more exams administered by a member of the American Board of Medical Specialities

Doctors must participate in continuing education to maintain their certification.

Check here to find out if a doctor you’re researching is board certified.

4. Know What You Need

As we said above, take referrals from friends and family with a grain of salt. A “good doctor” to me may not be a “good doctor” to you.

Determine what you need and what is important to you:

  • Do you have a preference on the gender of your doctor?
  • Do you need or want a doctor with a specific specialty?
  • Do you need flexibility?
  • Do you prefer a doctor whose approach is more conventional or more functional or integrative?
  • Do you want access and time with your doctor, or do you want to move in and out of the system quickly?

Be very specific with your wants and needs. Feel free to make a list of things that are important to you when it comes to a doctor’s office.

5. Schedule an Intro or Tour

Many doctor offices offer the opportunity to schedule an introductory tour or appointment with your potential new doctor.

Even if this isn’t readily suggested to you, ask for it. Many doctors are happy to have a quick introductory phone call or meeting with potential patients.

If a practice isn’t flexible in allowing an introductory meeting or tour for a potential patient, that can help you identify a practice that might not be a good fit for your needs.

After talking with the doctor and getting a feel for their personality and the way they work, you will have a better idea if this doctor will be the right fit for you.

6. Pay Attention

From the minute you place your first phone call or fill out a form on the website, to the moment you step into the primary care practice, to the second you walk out the door, pay attention to the care you receive and your experience.

Note things like:

  • Does the practice answer your phone call right away or do you wait a long time to receive a response?
  • Are they flexible with scheduling? Is it easy to schedule an appointment? Do you feel confused or overwhelmed at any point in this process?
  • Do you receive an appointment reminder electronically, or a phone call reminder, or no reminder at all?
  • How do you feel when you walk into the practice?
  • Does the practice look modern or more conventional?
  • How long do you wait in the waiting room?
  • How long do you wait to see a doctor?
  • Do you spend more time with your doctor or with another care provider?
  • What sort of technology do they have available?

If something matters to you, like how the office looks, what additional services are provided or if you can schedule an appointment online, pay attention and take note of your experience.

There is no one-size-fits-all medical practice, so you may have to visit a few different doctors before you find the right fit for you.

7. Evaluate the Staff

Remember that you won’t just be working with your doctor at this new primary care practice.

You will work closely with the staff as well, especially if you are returning for follow-up appointments. The staff will schedule your appointments, check you in and out, give your messages to the doctor and help you with insurance concerns.

Look for a staff that is friendly to you, energetic and responds quickly to your requests.

If you have a poor experience with a staff member or interact with someone who is rude or angry, take note of that. It might be just a one-off situation, but you also deserve to be respected in a primary care office.

8. Don’t Go Alone

If you’re worried that you might not be able to advocate for yourself with a doctor and want to bring someone into the conversation to help you, ask your partner or a close friend or family member to come with you when you meet a new doctor.

If being assertive with a care provider is an ongoing concern, there’s no reason you can’t continue to bring someone with you to your appointments that can help you to advocate for yourself.

Ask this person to help you remember what questions you wanted to ask and help you press for answers that you need. This person can also help you determine if the care you’ve received is really what you need.

9. Consider Compatibility

Studies show that more than half of Americans focus on personality and relationship when choosing a doctor. Less than a third of Americans said it was the delivery of care or their ultimate health outcome that was the most crucial part of choosing a doctor.

In your first visit or meeting, determine if you and your doctor are going to be compatible:

  • Does your doctor listen to you or interrupt you often?
  • Do they fully answer your questions?
  • Do they explain things fully in words that an average person can understand?
  • Do you feel like you can trust them?
  • Do you enjoy being around them?
  • Do you feel comfortable telling them things?
  • Do they seem rushed, overwhelmed or in a hurry?
  • Do they seem focused on you and your health or on selling you on their practice?
  • Do they bring a laptop in or take notes on paper?

Some things may not matter to you – for example, a doctor bringing a laptop into an appointment makes some people feel confident with the doctor, while others feel like the doctor isn’t listening to them.

The main thing to note is if you feel uncomfortable or unsure in your first meeting with a doctor, beyond just nerves or shyness. If that is the case, the doctor might not be the right fit for you.

And that’s OK. Not every doctor is right for every patient, and vice versa.

Learn More About the Essential Health & Wellness Team

At Essential Health & Wellness, we believe a strong relationship between a patient and their care provider is key to the journey towards optimum health.

When you walk into Essential Health & Wellness for the first time, there’s no need to take a seat and wait a while. If you schedule your appointment for 10 a.m., we’ll be ready for you – no need to bring a book.

At our initial Meet & Greet, we get to know you and your story. Our doctors listen to you and take notes, working to get a full picture of your health before making assumptions or prescribing medicine for your symptoms.

Once you become a patient at Essential Health & Wellness, your doctor isn’t just your doctor. They are your partner and your coach on your wellness journey.

Contact us today to set up a 30-minute Meet & Greet with one of our board-certified care providers.

The Essential Health and Wellness Team

Written by The Essential Health and Wellness Team

As integrative and functional medicine providers, the Essential Health & Wellness team will always take a personalized approach to your care. Our board-certified physicians and advanced care practitioners believe in treating people, not symptoms, and place wellness and prevention at the forefront of our practice.

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