8 Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Joining Their Primary Care Practice
When it’s time to look for a new doctor, what are the most important factors to consider? This is a decision you’ll want to handle with care. A primary care doctor who is a good fit can help optimize your health, increase longevity and lower your medical costs.
How? Primary care doctors should treat the whole patient — not just one aspect of their health — focusing on prevention, family history that may point to potential problems, regular screenings, health education and treatment of chronic conditions. When primary care works, evidence shows that it helps prevent illness and death, according to a major study that analyzed the findings of dozens of researchers. The study found a wide range of better health outcomes, including lower mortality rates for cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Another compelling reason to be treated by one dedicated doctor who is the gatekeeper for your overall health? More consistent, preventive care. A three-year study of 155,590 patients at the Massachusetts General Hospital’s adult primary care network looked at the clinical care provided, based on whether a patient was connected to a specific doctor or a general practice. The researchers found that patients with a relationship with one doctor received more guideline-consistent care, covering breast, cervical and colorectal screenings, and regular measurements and control for patients with diabetes and coronary artery disease.
Once you’ve completed your research, you’ll want to meet with the top choices on your list. How can you evaluate them to decide who is the best fit for you? Ask these questions before you choose:
1. How would you describe the doctor/patient relationship?
Ideally, you’ll find a healthcare professional who will be your trusted partner in all aspects of your health and wellness. Communication is key. When you speak to the doctor, do you feel he’s really listening? Does he give you a chance to ask questions? Does he respond in a way that is understandable to you? Do you feel comfortable with him?
This should be a stronger determining factor than online reviews or recommendations from friends. This is the doctor who will be at the hub of your healthcare, helping you to improve or maintain good health, care for you if you’re sick and advise you when you need to make important medical decisions. You’ll want to choose a primary care doctor who can care for you over a number of years.
According to research published in The Open Public Health Journal, 97 percent of patients in MDVIP-affiliated practices reported being satisfied with their relationships they have with their doctors. By contrast, just 58 percent of patients in a traditional primary care model said they were satisfied.
2. Does your background match up with my needs?
If you have a chronic illness, does the doctor have experience in treating the condition? In addition, find out about his credentials, such as clinical training, years of experience and whether he’s board-certified.
Many MDVIP-affiliated physicians have subspecialties or special areas of interest in medicine. Because they see fewer patients, they also have more time than typical primary care physicians to help you monitor and manage chronic conditions, research issues on your behalf or talk to specialists at your request.
3. How long does it take to get an appointment?
In a typical practice you may wait months just to get a physical. If you need to reschedule, you may be bumped further back in the line — this can mean waiting days or weeks to see your doctor. Patients may be double-booked and wait times can be long. You may not always see the same doctor.
In primary care practices like MDVIP, you can get same- and next-day appointment, count on your visits to begin promptly — and know that you’ll be treated by the one doctor who knows you best. If you’re employed or have other obligations, you’ll also need to consider the doctor’s office locations and hours to minimize disruptions to your day. Some MDVIP-affiliated doctors accommodate their patients’ schedules by opening early or staying open later, and some even make house calls.
4. How do you handle emergencies and acute care?
Your primary care doctor is meant to be your first point of contact when you’re sick (with true emergencies such as trauma from an accident or signs of a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately) And, even if it’s an emergency, you should call your primary care doctor after 9-1-1 to let them know what’s going on. For example, if you need to go to the hospital, your doctor may be able to help by sharing important medical information with physicians there.
Find out how the office handles urgent matters when you call. Can you call the doctor directly when you’re experiencing an urgent issue after hours? Are same-day visits possible for urgent situations?
MDVIP-affiliated doctors want to know if you’re sick – even after hours. They’re reachable 24/7 to address your urgent care needs. And they can typically see you same- or next-day for urgent matters.
5. Is there a patient portal where you can see office visit summaries and test results?
This is a great resource if you ever want to refer to your latest diagnostic results and medical history. Also ask if you can send the doctor non-emergency medical questions, either through the portal or to an email address, and how long you’ll typically wait for a response.
Being able to access your medical information and test results is important. Being able to reach your doctor and staff is just as important. That’s why MDVIP-affiliated physicians are reachable 24/7.
6. Is it okay for me to bring a friend or relative to an appointment?
Sometimes it helps to have moral support if you anticipate worrisome test results, or if you would like a second set of ears at follow-up appointments. If you’re anxious or upset, it can be hard to keep track of details as your doctor explains next steps for treatment.
7. Do you accept health insurance?
This is important question. Find out what’s covered — like any additional testing that’s part of an annual physical and how those additional services are billed.
8. Will you doctor talk to your specialists on your behalf?
If you have a pre-existing condition, chances are you already see a specialist, such as a cardiologist or urologist. Will your primary care doctor reach out proactively to those specialists? Ideally, those conversations happen frequently. Unfortunately, most primary care doctors and specialists are too busy to pick up the phone regularly. Although you may think a primary care doctor is talking to your specialists, in most practices those “conversations” happen over electronic records. Primary care doctors don’t talk to specialists and may only review the notes when you’re in the exam room with them.
At your request, MDVIP-affiliated doctors will speak to specialists on your behalf. Your MDVIP-affiliated physician can also help you find specialists. And should you need specialized care, second opinions or treatment beyond what is available in your area, MDVIP can help connect your doctor with the appropriate team of specialists at some of the country’s leading medical institutions through MDVIP’s Medical Centers of Excellence program.
Are you searching for a new doctor? Consider partnering with MDVIP. MDVIP doctors offer comprehensive, personalized care that focuses on your unique needs and goals.