Are you part of the 25% of adults who don’t have a primary care physician? Perhaps you just moved to a new city or your current doctor is no longer a good match for your family.
Whatever the reason for finding a new doctor, don’t take your chances by searching “family medicine near me” and picking the first result. Asking the right questions when looking for a new family medicine practitioner can help you find a family doctor who meets your needs and makes your family feel at ease.
Check out these seven questions to ask when choosing a new family practice doctor.
1. What Are Their Qualifications and Experience?
Dig into the doctor’s qualifications and experience to ensure it aligns with your needs. This is especially important if anyone in your family has a chronic health condition. You want a primary care provider who is familiar with the condition to get the best care.
Some doctors are board certified in a particular area. This is an extra step doctors go through to show their skills and knowledge in a particular area. It’s not necessary, but it can make you feel more confident in your new doctor.
Find out how long the doctor has been practicing medicine. New doctors can be great, but more experienced doctors can put you at ease with their years in the field.
2. What Type of Communication Is Available?
Find out how the doctors, nurses, and other staff members communicate with patients. Many offices have patient portals where you can see your medical records and send messages to care providers. Others might use email or only use phone calls.
Phone communication often takes place through the receptions with a nurse or doctor calling you back. Being able to communicate easily and quickly with care providers is important. Determine how difficult it is to talk directly to your doctor if you have a health concern.
3. What Are the Options for After-Hours Care or Acute Needs?
You learn quickly as a parent that not all urgent medical needs happen during business hours. In fact, it can feel like injuries, fevers, and other needs always happen after hours or on weekends.
Find out if the medical staff at the family medicine clinic is available outside of regular office hours. Ask about their normal hours, including whether or not they have weekend hours. If they’re part of a larger healthcare system, you might have access to urgent care.
Another consideration is the availability of same-day appointments for illnesses and injuries that happen during office hours. Doctors can sometimes be scheduled out for weeks, so finding an office that reserves same-day appointments for acute care is important. Being able to see your normal family doctor for those situations can result in better care since they know your medical history and put your child at ease when they’re not feeling well.
4. Do They Have Access to Specialists?
Even if your family doesn’t have special health concerns, there could be a health situation in the future requiring a specialist. Choosing a new doctor with good relationships with specialists can put you at ease if the need arises.
If you already see specialists for a health condition, ask if the new doctor will work with those specialists. Coordinating your care for an integrated approach can be more effective, so you want a primary care physician who’ll communicate with your specialists.
You can often visit the provider’s website to find out about affiliations with hospitals or access to specialists. For example, https://reverehealth.com/specialty/family-medicine/ shows the family medicine clinic not only provides preventative care, but it also provides integrated care with specialists in the network.
5. How Do They Make Kids Feel at Ease?
If you’re looking for a family medicine clinic for the kids and adults in your family, find out what they do to make kids feel at ease. As a family medicine doctor, the practitioner should be comfortable interacting with kids and have several strategies to put them at ease. Some family medicine offices have special rooms for kids with fun paintings on the walls, toys in the waiting rooms, or more flexible exam room spaces.
One of the best ways to have this question answered is to meet the doctor in person. You can see firsthand how the doctor interacts with your child. Look for a doctor who talks directly to your child, seems comfortable with them, and knows how to distract them if they get anxious.
If your child has special needs or has major anxiety when visiting the doctor, mention this and ask how the doctor will handle it.
6. What Is the Treatment Philosophy?
You want a physician you can trust and feel comfortable talking to about your medical concerns. Find out how well the doctor listens and whether or not they’re receptive to your input and treatment preferences.
Some doctors focus heavily on preventative care and getting to the root of the problem. Others are quick to prescribe medication for every condition.
Some tell you that you need one specific treatment that they think is the best. Others discuss multiple treatment options, giving you the pros and cons of each, and give you more of a voice in choosing your treatment.
If a holistic approach and alternative medicine options are important to you, make sure potential doctors are willing to consider those things. Find a doctor whose treatment philosophy aligns with your preferences and values.
7. Do They Accept Insurance and What Are the Billing Policies?
Whenever you switch to a new family doctor, it’s important to verify that they accept your insurance coverage. You can either check with the clinic or with your insurance company to verify. Consider which local hospitals the new doctor is affiliated with to ensure it falls under your insurance coverage as well.
Find out how the office handles billing for medical costs not covered by your insurance. They might require payment upfront or they may bill for the services later.
Find Your Family Medicine Doctor
When looking for a family medicine practitioner, asking lots of questions can help you evaluate the options. Going with someone who makes you feel comfortable and confident makes going to the doctor easier.
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