Eight Things to Look for When Choosing a Primary Care Provider

So you’ve moved, changed insurance plans or your physician has retired or moved away. Now you’re left looking for Dr. Right. Finding a primary care provider, be it a physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant, requires research—just like buying a new home or vehicle.

Why you need a primary care provider

Primary care providers or PCPs track your medical history, chronic conditions, past medical procedures and diagnostic tests. They also help you understand the need for preventative screenings and well visits and when a health crisis arises, PCPs can expedite your medical care and provide referrals to specialists. In short, your primary care provider is the coordinator of your health care.

How to find Dr. Right

Before you jump into any relationship, consider these questions when searching for the right health care provider:

Does the provider participate in your insurance plan? By staying in your health plan’s network, you’ll pay fewer out-of-pocket expenses.

Which provider fits your health needs? Family medicine physicians care for a wide range of health concerns and often treat family members of any age. Internal medicine doctors or internists treat adults and a wide range of general and chronic conditions.

What’s the word on the street? Ask for personal referrals from friends, relatives, co-workers and even dentists, pharmacists and nurses who you know.

Is the physician board certified or board eligible? According to the American Board of Medical Specialists, board certification shows a physician’s expertise in a specialty or subspecialty of medical practice. You can find a physician’s training and background online.

Is the physician’s office close to home or work and what are the office hours? Let’s face it - if it’s a hassle to drive to your doctor’s office or your provider doesn’t offer after-work hours, you’re less likely to stay on track with annual wellness exams.

Is the provider in the digital age? Electronic medical records or EMR track a patient’s medical history over time and help improve care planning among primary care providers and specialists. Patient portals allow online access to personal medical information and let you communicate with your providers about your care.

Is the provider connected to a hospital or health system? When physicians are part of a health system or multi-specialty group, patients receive better care coordination. Through the use of EMR, providers can review your chart and gain instant knowledge of your medical history and medications. Collaboration among primary care physicians and specialists can also decrease duplicate diagnostic tests and prescriptions and enhance access to specialty care.

Does the provider offer introductory visits? You should approach the selection of your primary care provider as you would a first date. When meeting with a provider, look for two-way communication, an interest in preventative care and the ability to speak in plain language. Trust, chemistry and a connection should all be present during your first encounter.

Meritus Medical Group, a part of Meritus Health, offers more than 50 board-certified physicians and 20 advanced practice professionals in a multispecialty medical neighborhood. Call 301-714-4411 to find a primary care provider and discover a better patient experience.