Choosing A Family Doctor

Choosing a doctor for your family is a very important decision. Here are some tips to help you make the best choice.

So you need to choose a family doctor? Perhaps you have moved to a new area, or maybe your medical insurance has changed and your previous doctor is no longer covered under your new plan. Whatever the reason, it is important to do your research so you can make the choice that is best for your family.

First, check with your medical plan

Some medical plans, like HMO's, require you to select a primary care physician from their list of network providers. If you must select a primary care physician, check the website of your medical plan-- you will get the most up to date provider information online. Try to select a few doctors that you are interested in, in case your first choice is not currently accepting new patients.

Location location location

Make sure the provider you choose has an office location that is convenient for your family's needs. If you work outside the home and plan to schedule most of your appointments during your lunch hour, you may want to consider a doctor located near your workplace instead of one near your home. On the other hand, if you are the parent of young children who may require frequent well check visits and immunizations (as well as those unexpected sick visits) then you may prefer a doctor that is closer to home.

Does the doctor work alone or is he or she part of a large practice?

If you choose a doctor that is part of a large practice, you should become acquainted with all of the physicians in the office. With a large practice, you will likely have a hard time getting an appointment with the same doctor every time you go-- especially for last minute sick visits.If you have children-- especially teenagers-- make sure the practice has a doctor that they are comfortable with.

Office hours/Saturday appointments

Check to see if the doctor has convenient office hours. A busy family may need to select a doctor that offers evening or Saturday hours.

What hospital is the doctor affiliated with?

Make sure that you find out what hospital the doctor is affiliated with-- you may be sent there for blood work and other tests. If you don't like the hospital, you may want to consider another doctor. While you may be able to go to another hospital if needed, it can get complicated if the doctor isn't known there.

Get references/check credentials

Ask friends or relatives about their doctors. Work of mouth references are a great way to find a reliable doctor. For a small fee, you can also check online for information on the doctors you are considering. Search for sites that list a doctor's credentials, educational background and any complaints that have been filed against him or her.

Other things to look for

Is the staff friendly? Is the office clean? Is there a separate waiting room for sick patients? Are patients kept waiting past their scheduled appointment time? These are all important questions to consider during your quest.

How to go about switching

Don't just pick a name out of a hat and hope for the best. Make an appointment to meet with the doctor you are considering. Ask for a tour of the facility and stop to chat with the office staff. Don't be shy-- ask other patients if they are satisfied with the practice.

Your family's health is the most important thing in the world-- do your research beforehand and make an informed decision.

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