How To Find The Right Primary Care Physician (Doctor)

By: Lewis Mark
Published: Thursday, October 25 2018
Last Updated: 21 days ago

Taking care of your health is important at any age, but especially as you get older since age-related health problems may emerge. That’s where your primary care physician comes into play. Having a trusted medical professional who knows you personally, and understands your medical needs, can go along way in keeping you healthy. You don’t want to trust your health and wellbeing with anyone, so here’s how to find a primary care physician that will make your transition into your senior years a breezed.

What Is A Primary Care Physician?

A primary care physician is a medical doctor who is the main provider of your general healthcare needs. You go to this person for your yearly medical check-up and for general medical problems. If specific problems arise, like a heart condition, then this provider can refer you to a specialist trained to deal with heart and other cardiovascular problems.

Why They’re So Important

By understanding your medical needs over a long period of time, a primary care provider can help you maintain good health, teach you good health practices, and prevent disease. If a health issue does emerge your doctor may find it before you do, since some conditions like a vitamin deficiency, may not be obvious to the patient until a test has been run and a diagnosis made by the doctor.

Does Medicare Cover Your Primary Care Doctor?

Medicare does cover your primary care physician visits. With Medicare Part A and B (Original Medicare), you do not need to choose your provider. You can go to any primary care provider that you want, according to Mike Olmos at Medicare.com. However, certain Medicare Advantage plans require a visit to a primary care doctor before seeing a specialist.

Finding The Right Primary Care Physician

Find a primary medical physician that you trust and is knowledgeable. Factors to consider to help you find a primary care doctor include the location of the doctor's office and the years of experience. Patient reviews are another important factor when choosing a primary care doctor.

Where To Start

To find a primary care physician, look at the medical providers in your health plans network. Since they are in-network, it will be more cost effective to see them. After getting this information look at their credentials (the schools they attended, any certifications they have).

Also, if this is important, look at the languages that they speak, and if they help people in certain populations. For example, see if they specialize or have reviews for seniors, LGBT health issues, and other specialties that may be specific to your needs. It’s also a good idea to find out where the medical practice is located. It might be more convenient to find a primary care physician close to where you live or work, rather than one you have to drive out of your way to visit.

Lastly, look at patient reviews on the sites listed above or similar sites. You can also look at the reviews on the doctor's website. Although these may not be as independent as those on Healthgrades.com for instance, at least you can get a general idea of some patients' experience with this particular primary care provider.

What To Look For

Look for certain qualities to help you find a primary care physician. Patience, genuine concern for your health and well-being, a high level of medical knowledge including the latest health breakthroughs and treatments are all important attributes in a doctor. You also want a primary medical provider who is well-liked by his/her patients. Look at resources like Healthgrades.com or Vitals.com to get patient reviews of the doctor you are interested in seeing.

Types Of Primary Care Providers

According to Dr. Beth Averbeck at Healthpartners.com, primary care physicians include:

  • Internal medicine doctors
  • Internal medicine-pediatrician doctors
  • Pediatricians
  • Family doctors
  • OB-GYNs

Each type of doctor sees certain types of patients. Internal medical doctors (also called internists) see only adults, while pediatricians see children from birth to age 18. However, sometimes patients continue to see their pediatrician until their early 20's.

An internal medicine-pediatrician doctor is one who is board-certified in internal medicine and pediatrics so they can see both adult and child patients. Similarly, a family doctor can see the whole family regardless of age. An OB-GYN (obstetrics and gynecology) doctor specializes in the reproductive health of women. Therefore, only adult females generally see OB-GYNs.

Changing Primary Care Physicians

If you have to change your primary care physician for any reason such as you have changed insurances, that physician is not the best fit for your medical needs, then start reviewing your list of in-network physicians from your healthcare insurance provider again and narrow your choices based on the factors mentioned above. Ideally, you want to be able to find a primary care physician that you can keep seeing for decades. It’s not uncommon for patients to visit with a handful of primary care doctors before finding the perfect fit.