It is important to have a healthcare professional who can see your routine healthcare needs. However, finding one that suits you can be a herculean task – one that requires a deliberate effort and time to achieve. We all want to have the assurance that we are putting our lives in the hands of someone we can trust, someone who understands us, and someone who will always be available to meet our healthcare needs. Here is a guide on how you can make better choices in picking the primary care doctor best for you.
Who is a primary care doctor?
Medicine is a vast field encompassing many specialties and sub-specialties, each concentrating on a specific part of the body or a particular set of disease conditions. Amongst this myriad of specialties, there is the primary care doctor or general practice physician as it is preferably called in the United Kingdom. A primary care doctor is a healthcare professional who practices general medicine. Barring medical emergencies, a primary care doctor is usually the first point of call for medical and healthcare issues even before the attention of any other specialist is called for.
What does a primary care doctor do?
The functions of a primary care doctor include the following:
- They manage a wide variety of medical conditions ranging from seasonal flu to infectious diseases.
- They help in preventing certain diseases.
- Routine medical checks for otherwise healthy people are carried out by the primary care doctor.
- Medical fitness and physical exams such as those required for work are conducted by them.
- They treat minor injuries that do not require a specialist’s input
- They manage chronic medical conditions. People managed for conditions like diabetes or hypertension can have their regular checks and management with a primary care doctor.
The challenges of finding a primary care doctor
Between the years 1997 and 2005, the United States of America experienced a significant drop-off of as much as 50% in the number of graduating medical students opting for family general practice as a profession. This current trend has led to the projection that by the year 2025, the number of required primary care doctors in relation to the general population will be shortened by up to 40,000 doctors. Keeping these frightening statistics in mind, it is therefore clear that the options available to patients are rather limited. Moreso, the majority of available primary care physicians either practice or would prefer to practice in cities, urban areas, and developed countries, further reducing the numbers available to people in rural communities.
Important tips for choosing a primary care doctor
- Research the expertise that meets your need
Primary care physicians tend to have their areas of preferences. It could be in obstetrics and gynecology (pregnancy and women health issues), pediatrics (for children), or even geriatrics (for the elderly). It is up to you to decide which of these specific cares you will be needing before you go about making the choice of a physician.
- Referral method
One of the best and oldest forms of genuine advertisement is by word of mouth. If that doctor has been nice and efficient with some patients, the patient care likely to recommend them to their friends and family. So it is good to ask around as this will help you narrow down the search.
- The proximity of the physician
You would want a doctor who is easy to reach as some medical conditions may require immediate attention or some patients (geriatric patients or pregnant women for example) may find the task of traveling long distances physically exhausting. When making the choice, carefully factor in the distance.
- Consider in-network doctors
As a way to cut down the cost of healthcare for you, you might want to consider selecting an in-network primary care doctor. This is a doctor that works with your insurance plan as anyone who doesn’t will have to make extra out-of-pocket payments different from that covered by your health insurance policy.
- Practice’s working hours
In this century, there are other options available for easier consultation. Many healthcare providers now have the option of using telemedicine to make consultations and keep tabs with patients. This is an option that many patients will find convenient. Although telemedicine does not in any way take over physical consultation, it is a welcome adjunct service that makes life easier. Therefore if the normal working hours are not convenient for you, then this is one option you might want to keep in mind when making a choice.
- Consider the medical team
The medical team comprises the physician, the nurses, therapists, receptionist, and everyone who works in the facility and with whom you may likely come in contact during your visit. It is important to know that they are equally qualified professionals in their areas but going beyond that – How do they relate with patients? Are they nice, yet uncompromising in the standards of the care provided? Do you feel comfortable and understood by them? Wellness and the path to getting well sometimes do not strictly depend on the medications you get, but the environment and the psychological atmosphere you are surrounded by while you heal.
Making that decision of who to entrust your care to may seem like a confusing one but this guideline may be just the tool you need to make that choice easier.