Regular visits to a primary care doctor for preventative care like wellness screenings and annual physical exams increase your chances for a longer, healthier life. But choosing a primary care doctor isn’t always easy. If you don’t know where to start, we’re sharing a few tips for choosing the right doctor so you can invest (or reinvest) in your everyday health.
Ask people you trust
One easy way to start looking for a primary care doctor that fits is to ask your family and friends about their providers. What do they like about their primary care providers? What keeps them coming back? What do they wish their physician did differently?
Following a recommendation from someone you trust is a great way to start identifying a highly skilled professional, but it’s important to remember that every person is different. A primary care doctor who fits for one friend or family member may not necessarily be the right fit for you.
Know the difference between in-network and out-of-network
You may save money by finding an “in-network” doctor. Typically, health insurance plans have negotiated special rates with specific doctors and practices in your area. By visiting these in-network doctors on your health plan, you’ll be saving on out-of-pocket costs. Often you’ll find “out-of-network” charges if you visit a doctor outside of your health plan’s coverage. Make sure to visit your health plan’s website. For convenience, health insurance companies usually have online directories to find in-network doctors in your area.
Learn who all can provide primary care
The term “primary care provider” can refer to several types of practitioners. In fact, it’s becoming more and more common for patients to seek primary care from other healthcare professionals besides primary care doctors. These include:
- Physician Assistants (PAs): healthcare professionals who are usually specialized in one area of care and can even diagnose ailments and administer medication
- Nurse Practitioners: healthcare professionals who have completed graduate-level requirements to become a registered nurse
- Clinical Nurse Specialists: advance practice registered nurses who may also work in management positions
These professionals can offer you the same primary care and may come with a smaller price tag—it’s worth asking around for any and all healthcare professionals who provide primary care.
Consider your location
Finding the right primary care doctor also means routinely visiting that physician. Travel costs add up, and if you and your primary care doctor decide regular visits are necessary, that can get costly. To save on travel expenses, start your search for a doctor close to home or consider finding a doctor that offers virtual telehealth visits.