When selecting a primary care physician or a health care practitioner, it's important to choose a medical professional who works well with you and your health needs.
First decide what type of physician you need. For example, when selecting a doctor do you need one to help manage your overall healthcare and then refer you to a specialist? Or would you prefer choosing a doctor specializing in chronic illness?
Then check with your health insurance plan. It may confine your choice, putting limits on a group of plan-approved physicians. Always consider the terms in your plan. And if the doctor that you want does not participate in the program, check your out-of-pocket costs for the visit.In the U.S., most physicians are board certified.
The primary care physicians are board certified in family medicine and only see patients for routine ailments and regular checkups. Specialists see patients who need special procedures like a colonoscopy or help with a chronic condition.
A primary care physician will see patients for general health issues. When choosing a new primary care doctor, decide if you want:
A family care doctor treats a wide range of medical problems and receives more training to care for all family members.Internists are doctors for adults and take more training to become specialists like a Cardiologist.Geriatricians receive training in family practice or internal medicine and receive additional preparation in caring for older people.Pediatricians treat and care for newborns, infants, children, and adolescents.Obstetricians/Gynecologists care for women, particularly those of childbearing age.Nurse practitioners and physician assistants receive different training and certification processes. In some physician practices, they are a patient’s principal contact.
The best referral for any service comes through the people you know and trust. Another option is to ask for a referral from the local hospital, medical center, or medical school. Here are a few questions to ask your trusted support community when seeking a physician.
For patients who belong to a managed care plan, like a Medicare Advantage Plan, your choice is limited. If you go outside your health insurance plan, you'll pay a bigger share of the costs.Call to ask the plan's membership services to help you find available doctors in your area. For information, call the toll-free hotline at 1-800-633-4227 (1-800-MEDICARE) or visit www.medicare.gov.After making a list of physicians, call their offices. The physician's staff can give you information about her education and training. Get to know their practice guidelines, the insurance plans they take if they file the claims and what forms of payment they accept.
What to ask during your office visit, and other things to consider when selecting a physician:
Once you leave the doctor's office:
American Academy of Family Physicians
American College of Physicians
American Osteopathic Association
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Carol Marak is a contributor for the senior living and healthcare market.