Most likely during childhood, there was no reason for you to question why or how your parents chose your doctors. You probably never even thought that it was a choice at all. It most likely seemed that those were the doctors available in your area, and that was it. However, there is more to it than calling a doctor who is located just around the corner and signing up. Moreover, it has become even more challenging as the years and the insurance requirements have progressed.
Have you spent much time evaluating the selection process of the physician who can meet the needs of you and your family? You may need to find a new physician because of relocation, or possibly you have changed jobs and health insurance. Considering that a change is insurance is the reason that anyone changes doctors, a great deal of research needs to be done to meet both the requirements of your health plan and network, along with the needs of you and your family.
Selection of a Primary Care Physician (PCP)
Many questions and concerns may arise along when you search for your primary care physician, especially when it includes finding a physician with whom you are comfortable enough to communicate all the details of your health records, past, present, and future. Without ease of communication and a positive relationship, you will not likely receive quality care from that physician.
Also, you must stay within specific network of healthcare providers to meet insurance requirements, making PCP selection a challenge. While not all health insurance plans require the selection of a PCP, Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans are the most common that do so.
People enrolled in Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans, and EPO (Exclusive Provider Organization) plans are not required to choose a PCP, though it is often encouraged. Especially with the ability of a Primary Care Physician to provide referrals to many of the specialists who will fit into your program network as well as the requirements of your plan overall.
Primary Care Physicians and Your Health Insurance
Whether it is insurance offered by their employers, or purchased under Obamacare or Open Enrollment, it is essential to make sure that you remain within the limitations of your plan, with what you can spend and what it will cover. Look up your Health Plan's website for the list of doctors and hospitals that are in the network. That is a good starting point.
Then, you must consider which doctors are classified as PCPs. These include family practice doctors, general practice doctors, internal medicine doctors, and pediatricians. Then there are steps to be taken to help find the physician that meets your needs, both to fit your plan and your personal health.
Next, you can take steps to walk through all of the physicians who are included in your network along with the potential issues or emergencies that may arise at any time.
Then, you may be able to research personal referrals from friends and family or even referrals from your current doctor. You may find useful information on websites such as HealthGrades and even on Google Maps (with patient reviews!). Another site to check out is Medicare's Physician Compare. While this is targeted towards Medicare users, this does give other insurers a benchmark for physician quality. This is definitely important if you are looking for a new PCP because of a network change when you get a new plan. Another thing to consider is hospital access. It is always helpful to have PCPs who are linked to the hospital that you trust the most for emergencies, treatment, or surgery.
The Softer Decision Factors - Trust & Comfort
It is also important to consider the doctor you select as a relationship that is key to both you and your family. Kind of like Mr. or Miss Right, Dr. Right is someone who is able to work with all of the specialty needs of you and your family along with the communication essentials that make a stable, long-term relationship.
Additionally, you should consider the credentials of any physician, both as a general practitioner and as a specialist in any field that is needed for you and the kids. Some good place to check out credentials are:
There may be many details, even personal, that can help determine what makes you comfortable with a doctor. Sometimes it can be the age of your doctor, especially if a considerable age difference means that your doctor may not understand elderly health, or an older doctor may be retiring and leave you without a PCP again. Other personal connections may be things like native language, culture, or home country if you are not from this country.
So, many different considerations like this are to be kept in mind when searching for the perfect PCP for your family. Good luck with your search!