How do I select a primary care physician?
Kent Johnson, MD, is an internist and pediatrician on staff at Banner Estella Medical Center.
Question: I am in the process of selecting a primary care physician. How do I choose a doctor who is right for me?
Answer: Unfortunately, there are not a lot of independent or objective resources for patients to evaluate doctors. As a result, choosing a primary care physician can sometimes be a difficult process. But there are a few things you should consider:
- Health insurance, for many, is the most important factor. Usually, your insurance provider will have a list of participating physicians. So, searching for a physician who is approved through your health plan is a good way to begin narrowing down your search.
- Finding a physician who is located close to where you live or work is another key consideration. If your doctor’s office is easily accessible, you might be more likely to schedule and keep appointments, rather than putting them off. This is especially important for people with chronic medical problems who need to see their physician regularly.
- Communication is also a critical component in selecting a primary care physician. When I hear from patients who are dissatisfied with their current physician, poor communication is usually the central problem. Patients should expect to be treated with kindness, empathy and respect by their doctor and his or her office staff. Finding a doctor who is approachable and that you feel comfortable talking to will greatly benefit your patient-doctor relationship.
If you don’t already have a doctor, do not wait until you are sick before selecting one. In Arizona, there is a shortage of primary care physicians. Because of the demand and short supply, many offices do not have the ability to quickly accommodate new patient appointments. Often, established patients have more success with scheduling appointments when there is an urgent need.
A good way to establish a relationship with a new primary care physician is to schedule a physical. This not only establishes you as a patient, but also allows you to address any medical conditions or concerns with the doctor and develop a preventative plan.