Choosing a primary doctor is one of the most important decisions you can make when it comes to managing your health care.
Your primary care doctor is your medical “home.” It’s the doctor you’ll see most for everything from routine wellness visits and screenings to non-emergency illnesses. It’s also the person you’ll see when you have a health question or concern. If you have an HMO plan, your primary care doctor will also be the person who refers you to specialists if you need one.
You want someone you’re comfortable with and someone with expertise in the areas that meet your health needs.
Here are five tips to consider when you’re choosing a primary care physician:
1) Make sure your new doctor is in-network. Most health plans have negotiated special, discounted rates with certain doctors and hospitals in your area. You’ll pay less to see those doctors, called in-network for insurance purposes.
2) Find a doctor with expertise that meets your health needs. Narrow down your in-network options by specialty. You can choose from family practice, internal medicine, or general practice. Family medicine and general practice practitioners treat patients of all ages, from newborns to adults. Internal medicine internists are trained to identify and treat adult and geriatric medical conditions. If you’re looking for a doctor for your child, you might want to choose a pediatrician or an internal medicine doctor who specializes in pediatrics.
3) Get referrals. You might feel more comfortable visiting a doctor who is recommended by someone you know. Ask around to see who your family, friends, and co-workers visit. If you’re moving, you can ask your current doctor if he or she has a recommendation for your new town.
4) Think about logistics. It makes sense to find a doctor close to where you live or work and one who has office hours that work around your schedule. You’ll also want to check into the hospital the doctor admits patients to in order to determine if that makes sense for your life. If you’d prefer a doctor who has an online patient portal for communicating, you’ll also want to ask about that when you’re shopping around.
5) Meet the doctor. An office visit and face-to-face meeting can help you make sure you’re comfortable with your choice of doctor. Do you like the office, the physician, nurses, and staff? Make sure the doctor is someone you’d feel comfortable discussing your medical history with and that you’re on the same page when it comes to managing any chronic conditions.
It’s important to officially declare your primary care doctor with your insurance company. If you’re a BCBSM or BCN member, you can make an appointment with your primary doctor online through bcbsm.com, or you can call the number on the back of your insurance card or on your Explanation of Benefits statement. If you have questions, feel free to reach out through our Customer Action Center.
This blog post was adapted from a post originally published on the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s blog.
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Photo credit: NEC Corporation of America