How to choose a primary care provider you can talk to
Finding a main doctor (often called your primary doctor or primary care doctor) who you feel comfortable talking to is the first step in good communication. It is also a way to ensure your good health. This doctor gets to know you and what your health is normally like. He or she can help you make medical decisions that suit your values and daily habits and can keep in touch with the other medical specialists and healthcare providers you may need.
Primary care physicians frequently are family practitioners, internists, or geriatricians. A geriatrician is a doctor who specializes in older people, but family practitioners and internists may also have a lot of experience with older patients. Here are some suggestions that can help you find a doctor who meets your needs.
Decide What You Are Looking for in a Doctor
A good first step is to make a list of qualities that matter to you. Do you care if your doctor is a man or a woman? Is it important that your doctor has evening office hours, is associated with a specific hospital or medical center, or speaks your language? Do you prefer a doctor who has an individual practice or one who is part of a group so you can see one of your doctor’s partners if your doctor is not available? After you have made your list, go back over it and decide which qualities are most important and which are nice, but not essential.
Identify Several Possible Doctors
Once you have a general sense of what you are looking for, ask friends and relatives, medical specialists, and other health professionals for the names of doctors with whom they have had good experiences.
If you belong to a managed care plan—a health maintenance organization (HMO) or preferred provider organization (PPO)—you may be required to choose a doctor in the plan or else you may have to pay extra to see a doctor outside the network.
Learn About Doctors You Are Considering
Once you have narrowed your list to two or three doctors, call their offices. The office staff is a good source of information about the doctor’s education and qualifications, office policies, and payment procedures.
When learning about a doctor, consider asking questions like:
- • Do you have many older patients?
- • How do you feel about involving my family in care decisions?
- C• Can I call or email you or your staff when I have questions? Do you charge for telephone or email time?
- • What are your thoughts about complementary or alternative treatments?
Make a Choice
When making a decision about which doctor to choose, you might want to ask yourself questions like:
- • Did the doctor give me a chance to ask questions?
- • Was the doctor really listening to me?
- • Could I understand what the doctor was saying? Was I comfortable asking him or her to say it again?
Once you’ve chosen a doctor, make your first actual care appointment. This visit may include a medical history and a physical exam. Be sure to bring your medical records, or have them sent from your former doctor. Bring a list of your current medicines or put the medicines in a bag and take them with you. If you haven’t already met the doctor, ask for extra time during this visit to ask any questions you have about the doctor or the practice.
- National Institute of Aging (2017). How to choose a Doctor you can talk too. Retrieved September 13, 2018 from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/how-choose-doctor-you-can-talk