Finding a Long-Term Family Physician: Mistakes, Costs and Questions
Are you searching for better healthcare for you and your family? Finding a great family doctor can be one of the most important first steps in getting the best care for you and your family.
Family physicians not only help diagnose and treat illness, they can also serve as advocates or “quarterbacks” if/when more serious health conditions arise, and other care is needed. Having someone in your corner, who is following your care and asking the questions that you may not think to ask, can make all the difference in the outcome of your treatment. Family doctors are also knowledgeable about preventing and treating a wide variety of health conditions , so most are willing to provide education, resources, and guidance as you make healthcare decisions for your family. It is important to find a family doctor you can trust and talk openly and honestly with about your family’s health.
With so many options available, how do you go about finding the right family physician? We have some tips that may help!
Here’s what you should consider as you search for the right doctor for your family.
It is helpful to know a little about your doctor before you schedule your first visit. If years of experience is important to you, you may want to see when they completed medical school and where they have worked in the past.
Some primary care and family practices have a mix of providers, such as physicians, nurse practitioners (NPs), and/or physician assistants (PAs). If you are expecting to see a physician each visit, you will need to ask the practice how they handle assigning providers to their patients. If you’re not sure of your provider’s training, you can find out if they are a board certified physician (usually a MD or DO) in family medicine or other specialty.
You can also check to see if they have faced any disciplinary action or malpractice claims in the past. Look on health grades.com and other state websites to learn more about a doctor.
Get Personal Referrals
Every family’s needs are different, so take time to research the practice, read reviews, and ask friends, so that you can find a practice that’s the best fit for your family.
Online reviews can be helpful, but a few bad reviews doesn’t mean it’s not the practice for you. Generally, it’s more likely for someone to take time to share a bad experience than a good experience, so if a practice has a lot of positive reviews, those reviews probably mean more.
Ask those you trust for their recommendation, or ask someone with a similar health condition who they recommend.
Asking a few trusted individuals for their opinion about a doctor can provide valuable insight. Most people are happy to tell you the good and bad experiences they’ve had with doctors.
Once you have someone in mind, do your own research to make sure the family medicine practice you choose will meet your family’s needs.
Location and Access
While it can be helpful to find a family medicine office close to where you live, it doesn’t have to be the most important factor in your decision. Some family practices now offer telehealth visits for things that don’t require a physical exam (e.g., reviewing lab results).
If the office is some distance away and the hours are standard weekday hours, ask how they handle needs that arise outside of office hours or on the weekend. How much access you have to your physician can vary widely depending on the practice, so it’s helpful to know what communication options are available if you have questions or concerns.
Finally, find out how long it takes to be seen, and if they are accepting new patients. It shouldn’t take weeks to get an appointment.
Friendly and Professional Staff
When you or a family member is sick or hurting, you need prompt, compassionate care.
Make sure from the first call that the office staff is helpful and attentive to your needs. This includes all types of interactions, from scheduling appointments, to asking general questions, prescription refills, billing concerns, and more.
They should be courteous, patient, and respectful to you and all of their patients.
When you visit a family medicine office, it should appear clean, well-kept, and calming.
The exam should feel private and clean.
While some waiting during a visit is expected, waiting around for 30 minuets to an hour (or even longer!) to see your doctor, is unacceptable.
Short wait times, along with a friendly, clean environment, can help make each visit less stressful, and perhaps even enjoyable!
Procedures and Testing
It’s important to know where certain procedures or tests will take place. Some clinics have a lab and x-ray services in-house, while others require you to go to another location.
Find out if your doctor’s office provides these services or if there’s a convenient alternative. You may not want to drive across town for an x-ray or simple blood test.
You may also want to ensure that the doctor’s office and other health services they provide are convenient and favorable to your schedule and location.
Your Health Needs
Although a primary care doctor can refer you to a specialist if needed, it’s important to have a family doctor who has a thorough understanding of your health needs. Your age, gender, health history, and medical conditions are all important factor in each interaction you have with a healthcare provider.
If you have chronic conditions, mental health challenges, or other conditions, you want your doctor to be familiar with them and closely monitor them so they can recognize if things are are worsening or if a specialist is needed.
Be sure that the primary care or family doctor you choose can accommodate your condition as part of your care plan.
Your primary care physician often becomes someone you share your deepest concerns and private details of your life with. You want to choose a caring and compassionate doctor who you trust and feel comfortable communicating with.
Consider the following as you meet with your primary care or family medicine physician.
- Do they have a positive and clear communication style?
- Do they take time to listen and answer my questions?
- Do I feel welcome and not rushed?
- Do they explain things in a manner that I can understand them?
- Do I feel comfortable discussing personal and private health matters with them?
- Do I feel that my concerns are heard?
Finding a family doctor you and your family trust and communicate with ease is essential.
If you have insurance, be sure that the family practice takes your insurance before scheduling a visit.
If you h
If you have an insurance plan with a high deductible or don’t have health insurance at all, you might want to consider a Direct Primary Care practice, such as Promina Health in Wilmington. Direct primary care practices like Promina Health offer affordable membership plans that cover any visits you need and all of their professional services.
If you don’t have a Direct Primary Care practice in your area, ask the practice you are interested in about self-pay or payment options they offer. You might be surprised to find a family practice that fits your budget and is able to address most of your healthcare needs.
Don’t hesitate to call the office and ask any insurance or payment questions you may have.
Choosing a primary care doctor for your family is a major decision. You want the best for your family, and you may want to ask a few questions before making a final choice.
The doctor and staff should welcome your questions and show a genuine interest in your family’s health. You may want to ask about scheduling a consultation or an initial appointment that will help you determine if primary care or family practice is a good fit.
It’s easy to forget what you want to ask when you’re in front of the doctor, so it’s a good idea to prepare your questions ahead of time. This will help you save time and organize your thoughts prior to your appointment.
Some possible questions include:
- Are you accepting new patients?
- What types of insurance or payment options do you offer?
- How long does it take to get an appointment?
- How long do I get with my doctor when I schedule an appointment?
- What services do your family physicians provide (examples: minor procedures, GYN, pediatric care, etc.)?
- Will I see the same provider each visit? Is my provider is doctor or mid-level provider (e.g., nurse practitioner)
- If a need arises outside of regular office hours, is there a way to reach you?
- What hospital are you affiliated with?
- Is there a patient portal for test results and visit summaries?
- Do you consult with specialists?
- How would you describe the doctor/patient relationship?
- How does your background match up with my healthcare needs?
Choosing a Family Physician
Finding the right doctor for your family is a major decision. After all, you want the very best healthcare for the ones you love.
If you’re searching for a family physician in the Wilmington area, we’d love to talk with you. We provide excellent patient care for the entire family.
Contact Promina Health today to schedule an appointment.