How to find the right primary care doctor for you

January 31, 2014

One of the most intimate and crucial relationships we have is with our physician. Finding the right doctor is a lot like finding the right relationship partner. “There are a lot of great doctors out there, but finding the right one for you can be difficult,” said Anita Varkey, MD, a Loyola Medicine internal medicine physician. Here is what she recommends for finding the right primary care doctor:

Anita Varkey, MDWe all need a good primary care physician. You should think of your primary care physician as your “go to” doctor. Who do you go to when you have a question about your health or need a prescription refill?

There is more than one type of primary care doctor:

  • Pediatricians specialize in the treatment of newborns, infants, children and adolescents. Doctors board-certified in pediatrics plan and carry out a medical care program for children – from birth through adolescence. They provide preventive health care as well as care for acute and chronic illness.
  • Physicians board-certified in internal medicine, often called internists, specialize in the study, diagnosis and treatment of non-surgical diseases in adult patients. An internist is trained to diagnose and treat complex illnesses, as well as manage the prevention of illness.
  • Doctors who specialize in internal medicine and pediatrics, sometimes referred to as “med/peds” doctors, have completed a combined residency program in internal medicine and pediatrics. They are able to provide preventive care as well as care for the complex medical problems of adults and children.
  • Family medicine doctors provide continuing comprehensive primary care to patients of all ages and so can care for the entire family.

After you have some doctors in mind, it is a good idea to check their credentials. Loyola Medicine physicians’ profiles are available on the website and show the doctor’s education, including specialized training, such as in pediatrics, and their board certifications.

While doctors must be licensed in the state in which they practice, they also earn certifications from boards that set standards for medical specialties, such as internal medicine or obstetrics and gynecology. To maintain board certification, doctors must stay up-to-date on the latest advances in medicine.

Next, make sure the doctor you want to see accepts your insurance. Insurance companies usually have a list of physicians who accept their insurance. If you are interested in a certain physician, contact his or her office and ask if your insurance is accepted.

Other things to keep in mind when choosing a physician:

Office location. Even if you find someone you think is the best physician, do you have the time to drive to the office for appointments?

Hospital affiliation. Consider whether the doctor is employed by or can admit patients to the hospital you prefer.

Comfort level. You need to feel completely comfortable with your doctor. If it’s easier for you to talk to a woman, seek a female doctor. Do you want someone younger or someone older? The most important thing is for you to feel comfortable and open with talking to your physician.

The entire medical team. A medical office is more than just a doctor. Is the office staff helpful? Are the nurses responsive? If you like the doctor, but have problems with the team, talk to your doctor about it.

Anita Varkey, MD, is an internal medicine physician who sees patients at Loyola Outpatient Center in Maywood.