How to find a primary care physician
With increased demand for doctors and fewer medical students choosing primary care as a specialty, there is a growing shortage of primary care physicians (PCP). Here are some suggestions on finding a PCP.
• Ask a friend or co-worker. Personal experience with a particular physician is invaluable.
• If you see a specialist of any kind, ask the doctor for a referral to a trusted PCP.
• Choose from your insurance company’s list of PCPs.
• Any university hospital in your area will have an “internal medicine” or “family medicine” department. Call these departments and see whom they recommend.
• Local hospitals often have affiliated physicians. Check with your local hospital for recommendations.
• The Castle Connolly website lists “Top Doctors” in your area: CastleConnolly.com/doctors. For a PCP, enter “internal medicine” or “family medicine” under “specialty.”
• Consider going to a “concierge” medical practice. These practices charge an annual fee, but access to the doctor is much better than with a traditional practice.
• If all of the above fails, you can look at healthgrades.com. This website lists many of the physicians in your area and you can search by specialty. The site does not evaluate the quality of the doctor.
Once you’ve narrowed down your list to a handful of PCP candidates, it’s time to contact their offices. Make a list of the questions that are important to you. Here are some questions you may want to ask the office staff:
• Is the physician a provider on your insurance plan? (In cases where you did not find the PCP through your insurance company.)
• Is the physician taking new patients?
• What is the wait time for an appointment for a new patient and an established patient?
• To what hospital(s) does the physician admit patients?
• When hospitalized, would the physician manage my care?
• Who covers the physician when he/she is unavailable?
• Does the practice have a nurse practitioner (NP) or physician’s assistant (PA)? If so, when would I expect to see the NP or PA instead of the doctor?
• What are the office’s hours? What happens after hours?
• Does the physician respond to email?
• Will the office give medical advice over the phone for an established patient or are face-to-face appointments required.
SUSAN LOCKE, MD, is Healthnetwork Foundation’s medical director.
HEALTHNETWORK is a Legatus membership benefit, a healthcare “concierge service” that provides members and their families access to some of the most respected hospitals in the world. One Call Starts It All: (866) 968-2467 or (440) 893-0830. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org