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How to Locate and Select a Family Physician

Posted by Johnson Memorial Health on Sep 3, 2015

Whether you have just moved to the area, had insurance changes, or you are just ready for a change, finding a family physician is the first step to managing your healthcare. Your primary care doctor is who you will visit for most of your healthcare needs. It's the doctor you will see for minor aches and pains and to get referrals to specialists.


Your relationship with your family physician is a special one. You'll want to pick one that you feel comfortable with, has expertise in the areas that are important to your health needs, and one who is covered by your insurance. 

Here are some tips to locating and selecting a family physician:

Determine Which Doctors are Covered

Your insurance carrier has negotiated special contracts with certain doctors, so you will want to make sure that you go to one that is covered. You will pay less out of pocket if you see an "in-network" provider. Normally, you can log on to the insurance carriers website or call the number on the back of your card to get this information. 

Looking for a Family Physician? Request an appointment online.

Determine Which Type of Doctor You Need

There are many types of doctors. How do you know which one you need to see? You need to see a physician who has expertise in areas that are important to your health needs. Take a look below at a couple of different types of family physicians.

  • Family Practice or Family Medicine
    • comprehensive care to patients of all ages
    • generalists who treat everything
    • diagnose and treat illness
    • preventative care such as checkups, immunizations and screenings
    • manage chronic illness
  • Internal Medicine
    • comprehensive care to teens or adults
    • specialize in prevention, diagnosis, and management
    • trained in diagnostics, can often determine difficult cases when other doctors can't
  • General Practice
    • comprehensive care for patients of all ages
    • a more holistic approach to healthcare
    • can include osteopathic medicine (D.O. instead of M.D.)

Ask for Referrals

Ask your friends, neighbors, and family about their experiences with doctors. Don't be afraid to ask your OB or pharmacist if she has recommendations for a good family doctor. Many doctors know each other and are happy to give advice. 

Location, Location, Location

Determine if an office location close to work or home would work best for you. You might also want to think about the office hours a physician offers. Are they open late one night or one the weekends? What hospital is the office affiliated with?

Meet the Doctor

Your family physician should be someone you like and trust. If you don't feel comfortable with the person, it will be hard for you discuss medical problems with them. Meet the doctor, ask questions about the practice, get to know them a little bit. Ask questions that are important to you.

  • Does the doctor have experience with your healthcare needs?
  • Talk about your medications and current treatments and make sure that you are both on the same page.
  • Where are the routine labs and x-rays performed?
  • Do they deal with drug reps? (that could mean you are prescribed brand name medicines instead of generic versions, which cost much less)
  • How long does it take to get an appointment? 
  • Are there slots for same-day appointments?
  • How long is the typical wait in the waiting room?
  • Is there an on-call physician for after hours?
  • Who do you call if the physician is out?
  • Are the employees kind?
  • Is the office organized?
  • Are the phones answered in a timely manner?

If you don't hit it off with the doctor, stop going. It's OK to keep looking until you find a doctor who meets all your needs and you feel comfortable with.

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Topics: Wellness, Doctor, Health Care