How to Choose the Best Primary Care Doctor for You - MDVIP
Finding a new primary care physician can be a challenge because so many are booked for months in advance and may not be able to see you quickly. Others may not be willing to see you at all. Even finding strong leads presents difficulties.
First, gather leads
Consider qualities that are important to you. What are you looking for in a primary care doctor?
Does it matter if your physician is a man or a woman? Do you prefer an internal medicine doctor, also called an internist (who treats adults only) or a family doctor (who treats patients of all ages)?
Is it necessary for your doctor to be affiliated with a specific hospital or medical center? Does location matter? Having a great doctor you can’t see when you need them because they’re too far away may be an issue.
Does seeing a doctor matter? In many large practices, you may see a physician extender like a nurse practitioner instead of the physician.
Does it matter to you if you can see them on the weekends? Some physicians may offer flexible hours like Saturday visits or telemedicine appointments.
Next, get personal recommendations:
Just like if you’re looking for a great plumber or contractor, your social network can help you find a good primary care physician. Begin with family and friends, co-workers and neighbors. Find out who they see and if they like them.
But go beyond getting a doctor’s name. Ask what they specifically like about their physician. Perhaps the doctor recognized a potential problem and sent them to an excellent specialist for further diagnosis. Or maybe the doctor’s office promptly called with lab results and clearly explained what they mean. It tends to be a good sign if a physician’s name comes up more than once.
If you see a specialist like a cardiologist or endocrinologist, ask them for suggestions. They may have experience with a particular primary care practice. As with friends and family, ask them why they like that doctor and ask them if they would be a patient of that doctor.
If you have commercial health insurance, you can search your plan’s online directory for primary care physicians. Start your search by location and specialty, then hone in on the doctors’ credentials and background. This approach will tell you if a doctor takes your insurance, but it won’t tell you if they’re the right doctor for you. Which is why it’s important to go beyond the directory.
That’s where the Internet comes in. You can begin your search on Google (you may get more results than are manageable), but it’s also helpful to use a search engine to learn as much as about a potential physician or health system.
You can probably find information about physicians on your list from sites like Yelp and HealthGrades (there are dozens of sites that keep listings of physicians). You can also use the sites as your starting point or search for the names of physicians you already know.
HealthGrades, for example, is easy to use and has aggregated information including the physician’s medical education and credentials, specialties, board certification, whether new patients are accepted, insurance plans, locations and contact information. It also includes a background check, noting if any malpractice claims have been filed against that doctor.
You’ll also find patient ratings and comments, which can offer a good sense of the doctor’s skill as well as how efficiently the practice is run. One tip: If you search “internal medicine,” the results may include primary care doctors with a specialty, such as cardiology. Don’t be thrown if the specialty is listed first. If you already have the name of a recommended doctor, this tool is a handy way of gathering more information about them.
Other sites like Healthline FindCare and Zocdoc.com are also helpful for gathering leads. Similar to Healthgrades, they include basic information about a doctor’s credentials, specialties and location, but only Zocdoc.com—another popular destination—allows patients to add reviews.
You can also use MDVIP.com to search for a primary care doctor near you. Like other sites, you’ll find physician credentials, education, affiliations, specialties, locations, reviews and testimonials on doctors’ profile pages.
The Challenge of Finding a Primary Care Doctor
You’ve done your research, gathered names and made a list. As you’ve probably noticed, recommendations are only helpful to a point. You may see mixed reviews for the same doctor, reinforcing the idea that one patient’s dream doctor is another one’s never-in-a-million-years.
It comes down to what happens when you make an appointment and actually meet the doctor face-to-face. It’s your chance to learn how he views the doctor-patient relationship, whether your questions are welcome, how well he communicates his responses, the amount of time he spends with you and if he seems professional and caring.
Stopwatch-driven office visits are unsatisfying on more than a personal level: Patients’ health can suffer when harried doctors can’t address important health issues that require more than a 10-minute office visit. Studies have shown that patients are less likely to follow their doctors recommendations, such as checking blood pressure each day or losing weight, if it’s hard to get follow-up appointments and if they don’t feel a physician is a true partner in the first place.
Many of the primary care doctors in MDVIP national network actually prefer to meet new patients before they join their practice. You can schedule a complimentary face-to-face meeting through MDVIP.com.
Once you meet, you’ll want to ask the doctor lots of questions. Here are some questions to consider during your face-to-face meeting:
- Does the doctor’s background match up with your needs? If you have a chronic illness, does the doctor have experience in treating the condition? How long has the doctor been in practice?
- How long does it take to get an appointment? In the best primary care practices, you can get an appointment quickly, count on your appointment to begin promptly—and know that you’ll always be treated by the one doctor who knows you best. How long is the average appointment? How quickly does the doctor follow up when you call?
- How do you handle emergencies? Find out if you can call the doctor directly and, if not, how the office handles emergencies when you call. Ask if same-day visits are possible for urgent situations. If you need to go to the hospital, your doctor should be in touch with the facility with advice on your condition and care on your arrival.
- Can you work with my existing doctors or help me find a specialist when needed?
- Does the doctor provide an annual preventive exam?
While finding a new primary care doctor may seem daunting, choosing MDVIP can simplify it. There are more than 1,000 MDVIP-affiliated physicians in 44 states — chances are there’s one near you.
MDVIP-affiliated doctors see an average of eight to 10 patients a day, giving them more time to get to know their patients and focus on prevention. They also offer same and next-day appointments that start on time and last as long as needed. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that your personal doctor is reachable 24/7.