What to Consider When You Change Primary Care Doctors 

Jake Newby

| 4 min read

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Associate Medical Director Dr. Gina Lynem-Walker, M.D. has tips and insight on how to change primary care doctors.
If you are wondering how to find a primary care doctor or what goes into changing primary care doctors, you are not alone. Changing doctors may be your decision, or it may be out of your control. It may be a process you go through during open enrollment, or it may be a change in your personal circumstance. Here are some tips and general factors to consider when changing primary care doctors, with the help of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Associate Medical Director Dr. Gina Lynem-Walker, M.D.

Why Change Primary Care Doctors?

Switching insurance plans may result in the need to find a new primary care doctor. Depending on the terms of your new plan, your current doctor may no longer be in your network. “Sometimes people switch from a traditional to an HMO or a managed care plan, or they’ll switch over from commercial to Medicare when they reach a particular age,” Lynem-Walker explained. “So that’s a time where they might have to inquire about a new physician. Some other reasons could include:
  • A person becoming dissatisfied with the care they receive
  • A person moving to a new location
  • A doctor leaving the practice or retiring

What steps I should take to change primary care doctors?

If you have a good relationship with your current doctor, your first step might be to set up a meeting with them to see if they have any recommendations of fellow physicians they align themselves with that might make for a good fit with you.  “You might want to talk to the office staff or the office manager to see who they recommend, as well,” Lynem-Walker said. “Often times, there will be a letter (the healthcare provider) sends out that says a certain doctor is leaving and here is a list of providers you can choose from. Sometimes a doctor may be more active in that regard.”  Another route to take is going straight to your insurance provider and reaching out by phone or online to receive a list of primary care doctors that take your insurance. “You want to make sure you are staying in network,” Lynem-Walker said. “That way you’re not incurring any additional charges for going out of the network. That’s something you might consider.” To search online, BCBSM members can log into their account, click “Find a Doctor” under the “Doctors + Hospitals” tab, and find primary care doctors that are in their network. This tool allows members to search for doctors based on name, specialty, location, and procedure cost.

What to know after selecting a new primary care doctor

Before scheduling an appointment with a new primary care doctor, it’s important to do a little research.  If you have a new doctor in mind, see if you can speak to that doctor or to their medical receptionist ahead of time to make sure the fit is right. “Knowing what you want in a provider is important, so making sure you ask the right questions,” Lynem-Walker said. “For instance, if you have a rare illness, will the new provider be up to date on those practices? So, you want to make sure you have those questions are answered.” Making your new primary care doctor aware of any medications you are currently on is important, too. It may behoove both parties for you to bring medical records to your first appointment, though that is not always necessary. “If you are able to get medical records, that’s helpful,” Lynem-Walker said. “However, with electronic medical records nowadays, if you are staying within the same system, you don’t really have to have those. But knowing what you want in a provider is important.”

Other tips to consider when making the switch

“One thing you may want to consider is asking your friends and family, because sometimes they have good recommendations,” Dr. Lynem-Walker said. “They may suggest people they are happy with. And they know you so they may know who you’d be happy with.”  There are additional database resources Lynem-Walker mentioned for people to consider during their research. Those resources are:
Find more information about how BCBSM chooses the doctors, hospitals, and health care professionals in our: 
Photo credit: Getty Images More:
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association