Meeting Dr. Right
Take Your Time to Choose a Primary Care Physician
One of your most valuable assets in staying healthy is forging a solid partnership with a primary care physician (PCP). A PCP can serve as your main provider for regular checkups and those common ailments that don’t require a trip to the emergency room such as a cold or the flu. Your provider can guide you in choosing healthy lifestyle habits and help you prevent chronic illnesses by spotting early warning signs of disease.
“A strong partnership with your primary care doctor is one of the most important tools you have to stay healthy,” says Z Chris, MD, Inova Internal Medicine – Mark Center. “Your primary care doctor can help decrease your risk for developing chronic illnesses by knowing your medical history, performing regular checkups and screening tests, and recommending healthier lifestyle choices.”
Who’s Your Type?
There are several types of primary care doctors and knowing the difference will help you narrow your search.
- Family practitioners are board-certified, meaning they have completed residency training in family medicine after graduating from medical school and have passed a competency exam in that field. Typically, they treat patients
of all ages and they are trained to treat a wide array of conditions.
- Internists are board-certified and trained in the field of internal medicine. They treat adults for a large array of general conditions and typically refer patients to specialists for illnesses that require specialized care.
- Pediatricians are board-certified and have completed a pediatric residency. They provide care for newborns, infants, children and adolescents.
The Right Choice
Once you’ve decided what type of primary care doctor best suits your needs, ask friends, family and co-workers for recommendations.
“By asking someone you know and trust to recommend a doctor, chances are you will have a positive experience with that physician as well,” says Dr. Chris.
Check with your optometrist, pharmacist, dentist or other health professionals to see if they have a primary care doctor they would recommend. Once you get a recommendation you feel comfortable with, consult your insurance plan to find out whether your prospective physician is listed in the provider directory. When you find a physician that meets your qualifications, consider the location of the office: do you want it to be near your home or near your workplace? If the physician is not covered by your insurance plan, are you willing to pay out-of-pocket expenses to visit this provider?
Finally, schedule an introductory visit. Some practices offer these visits at no cost, but even if there is a fee, it may be well worth the investment. When you arrive at your appointment, notice whether the office is neat and clean, how friendly and well-organized the staff is, and how long patients are waiting to see the doctor.
Looking Toward the Future
Even if you’re in great shape, you never know when you’ll need the help of a doctor. By finding a physician now, before you need their services, you can feel confident about your care should a health need arise.
“Establishing an ongoing partnership with a primary care physician who knows your medical history can mean a world of difference in the event that you need medical attention,” says Dr. Chris. “Instead of seeking the services of an unknown physician, you will be able to see a doctor you know and trust who also knows you very well.”
There are many primary care physicians right in your community. Find the one that’s right for you. Click here
or call 1-855-My-Inova (694-6682).
Get the Scoop
10 questions to ask a prospective doctor
- Are you board-certified?
- Where were you educated and trained?
- What days and times is the office open?
- Which hospitals do you admit patients to?
- Are you available to answer questions after office hours?
- Can I be seen on the same day if there is an
- Who covers for you when you are away?
- Does your office process insurance claims or do I need to process claims myself?
- Are routine X-rays and lab studies done in-office
or at an outside lab?
- Do you focus on disease treatment or wellness
and prevention? Or both?
Give Your Doc a Checkup
You found a doctor who meets all your qualifications. But there’s one more thing you need to do: check on the quality of care that they provide. Here is a useful resource to see if your prospective doc is in good standing with state licensing agencies: To check on the training and board certification of doctors in the United States, visit the American Medical Association and click on Doctor Finder.