Finding a primary care provider may be the most important thing you do for your health. In fact, research shows that patients who see a primary care provider have, on average, 33 percent lower annual health care expenses and a 19 percent lower mortality rate than patients who don’t.
But choosing the right primary care provider is just as important. When you trust your doctor, you’re more likely to schedule regular appointments and ask questions that can make a difference in the quality of your care.
Here are some basic guidelines to follow when trying to find a good match.
Determine what kind of primary care provider you need
If you have a special health concern, consider looking for a primary care provider who specializes in that area. For example, some of our Carroll Health Group Primary Care providers at the Mt. Airy Health & Wellness Pavilion specialize in internal medicine, diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses or conditions, and more. To find out if a provider you’re considering has specific areas of expertise, start by visiting his or her practice’s website. At CarrollHealthGroup.com, you’ll find detailed profiles of each of our providers, so that you can make a better-informed decision.
Get a trusted referral
Ask your friends, family members and colleagues for recommendations. There’s a good chance you’ll have a positive experience with the primary care provider they suggest if you trust their opinion.
Consider the convenience factor
Is the practice in a location that’s convenient for you? Does it offer evening or weekend hours? How long do you have to wait for appointments, and can you get same-day appointments for urgent needs? At the Mt. Airy Health & Wellness Pavilion, all healthcare services—including diagnostic imaging, physical therapy, urgent care and more—are in a central location and all under one roof.
Evaluate the chain of care
Find out who covers for your doctor when he or she is away. If your doctor works in a group, make sure that you are comfortable being seen by one of the group’s partners. Patients at Carroll Health Group’s Mt. Airy location experience seamless coordination from their providers for every aspect of care.
Research your doctor’s education and certification
You can often find this on his or her office website or through your insurer. You can also visit docboard.org—the official website of the national non-profit Administrators in Medicine—and use their free search tool to see if your doctor is in good standing with state licensing agencies.
Always check your insurance!
Don’t forget to confirm that your provider participates in your health plan. If he or she does not participate, how much will you pay for office visits—and are you willing to do so?
Call for an “interview”
Ask if you can schedule an appointment to meet the doctor or certified registered nurse practitioner and discuss your health needs. Keep in mind there may be a co-payment or fee for this service.
Finally, remember that choosing a primary care provider is just that: your choice. If you are ever unhappy with the care you receive, speak up or move on to someone who is a better match for you.
Ready to Find Your Perfect Primary Care Fit?
Dana Saunders is Carroll Health Group’s executive director of physician practices.