Questions to Ask When Shopping for a Primary Care Physician

There are many factors to consider when choosing a primary care physician. Be sure to ask these questions.

Where and how you receive your medical care are extremely important and personal decisions. There are many factors to consider when choosing a primary care physician (PCP), such as family status and needs, preexisting conditions, future needs, current insurance plan, etc.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and your prospective PCP when shopping around for options.

Narrowing Your PCP Options

The first step is to figure out which primary care physicians are available to you.

  • What doctors are in my healthcare network?Consult with your health insurance carrier about which doctors are in your network. You don’t want to select a doctor only to discover that he or she is not available within your healthcare network.
  • What are my health needs?Primary care physicians can have different focuses and specialties. If you are looking for a physician who can treat all ages and genders, you might consider a family practice or general practice. If you have a family history of certain conditions like diabetes or cancer, you might consider seeking a PCP that specializes in prevention and management of those diseases or conditions.
  • How often will I need to go to the doctor?As a follow up question to your health needs, you’ll want to consider how often you will you need to go to the doctor. If you only go once a year for a preventive checkup or when you’re feeling a little under the weather, you might not mind driving a farther distance to see the doctor of your choice. If you need to go frequently to manage a chronic condition, you likely will want to choose a doctor whose office is close to your home or work so it will be easier and more convenient to go to appointments.

After asking yourself these questions, you should have a smaller list of preferred primary care physicians.

Specific Questions for Your PCP

Now that you have narrowed down some viable options for your PCP, it’s time to get specific. The answers to the following questions will help guide you to the PCP who will be the best fit for you and your family.

  • What is the doctor’s education background?You will want to make sure that the doctor’s educational background will guide the care you need and want. Find out where the doctor received his or her medical degree and where they completed their residency. You should also learn more about their board certifications and which continuing education classes they have participated in.
  • What is the doctor’s treatment philosophy?Asking about a doctor’s treatment philosophy can give some insight on the treatment you can expect to receive if you are injured or become ill. Does this doctor prefer a more conservative care approach by only ordering the most necessary tests? Or will he or she request several tests at once to arrive at a diagnosis more quickly? Do you prefer a more holistic approach to care? Or do you prefer strictly medically-based care? If you and your doctor are on the same page about care, you are likely to have a better experience.
  • If the doctor is out of the office, what are my care options?You might get sick and need to see the doctor at a moment’s notice. During that time, your physician might be out of the office on vacation or at a conference and unable to see you. How does the PCP handle this situation? This is especially important if you have a chronic condition.
  • Is the doctor’s staff helpful and pleasant to interact with?During your trip to the doctor’s office, you will regularly interact with several different people, including receptionists, nurses, and physician’s assistants, among others. Is everyone friendly and helpful? Do you feel comfortable asking them personal questions and giving them personal information? You want to make sure you are comfortable with the entire staff and that you’ll leave feeling better than when you arrived.
  • What is the typical waiting period to make an appointment?Sometimes it can take months to get an appointment with your doctor. Check to make sure that the average wait time for your regular checkups is something you are okay with. If it is not an acceptable amount of time for you, you might want to seek a different doctor.

Trust and confidence are two of the most important aspects of a doctor-patient relationship. Hopefully by the time you have asked all these questions to a prospective PCP you will feel comfortable with choosing him or her as your doctor.

Canopy Health

Canopy Health’s expansive healthcare network stretches throughout eight counties with nearly 5,000 physicians, 18 hospitals, and dozens of health care centers. Our diverse group of primary care physicians are committed to providing quality, compassionate care to you and your family.