Finding the right physician can be rather difficult, especially for those who have recently moved to a new location or changed their health and insurance plans. One of the greatest challenges people face when searching for a good physician is finding a reliable source of information. Although word-of-mouth and recommendations from colleagues, friends, and neighbors are an excellent way to start your search, the decision is ultimately yours to make and has to be well-suited in regards to your individual needs and preferences.
Granted, you can search for physician reviews and testimonials on websites such as Angie’s List and Yelp, but looking a doctor the same way you look for a plumber might not be the best possible idea. Your Insurance plans can also severely limit your choice to a small group of physical approved by the plan itself and influence your decision-making process by offering various financial incentives in order to steer you towards plan-affiliated doctors.
Hopefully, there are strategies that can help you find a decent physician, as long as you know exactly what you’re looking for.
Type of physicians
A primary care physician is the one you visit for the majority of your medical needs, including routine screenings and wellness checkups and non-emergency illnesses such as the common cold or the flu. These are general practice doctors who can be board-certified in family or internal medicine. Specialists, as the name implies, dedicate themselves to a specific medical field and are referred to by the primary care physicians whenever there’s a more specific issue at hand.
Of course for each area of specialty there are numerous sub areas, for example, cardiology is one of many sub-specialties of internal medicine. Cardiologists tend to focus on treatment of the heart and blood vessels of our cardiovascular system. In addition, there are many different types of cardiologists each of them focusing on different aspects of the field. For most specialits it is a requirement to have several years of fellowship after completing three years of internal medicine residency.
Primary care physicians
Primary care physicians are trained to treat and manage a wide range of medical issues ranging from the general ones like colds or migraines to chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes. They can lead and coordinate every aspect of your care, which is why it’s important to find the one that adequately suits your needs.
The most common type of primary care physicians are internists and they treat most adults aged 18 and over. Women often name their gynecologists as primary care physicians, while the older generations tend to stick with geriatricians. Pediatricians take care of the kids, while family practitioners tend to look after the entire family. Your primary physician is your first line of defense against illness, and it is important that you have full faith in their ability and judgement.
Keep in mind that it is completely acceptable to switch physicians, even after several years of having the same one. People change and so do their needs, and it is important to have a physician on call who can keep up.
Finding the best one
Most primary care providers are found by asking friends and family and, unfortunately, this is where the majority of people stop looking any further. What you should do instead is find out why they prefer a specific physician and check whether that will have any impact on your decision. The reasons may surprise you as they range from the physician having a pleasant voice and physique to the practice being within a walking distance from their home. More often than not it is not about their experience, credentials and work history.
These days, you can find almost anything online, including physicians’ credentials, even UMAT scores and board certification. You can find out a lot about a particular physician or a clinic with a simple phone call, so try to look for any available contact information. Have in mind that the best, and consequently, the most popular physicians are therefore often the busiest ones, which is why you will probably have to wait for an appointment.
Another thing you should look into is the official policy regarding the appointment of routine visits, but also for same-day appointments and even the little things such as average time spent waiting in the waiting room and the amount of time devoted to each patient.
These are all relevant issues so that you know if there is an emergency you will be able to rely on your selected physician. Lastly, even the best medical practitioners can get and do get sued. Nonetheless, having multiple disciplinary actions and malpractice claims is an obvious red flag and an indication that you should definitely look for a different physician, regardless of how highly recommended this one has been.