Sponsored - Having an established relationship with a primary care provider who knows you, your goals and your medical history can make a big difference in helping you effectively navigate health concerns large and small.
But how do you go about finding one?
“With primary care, you want someone who is not just a good provider, but a good fit for you,” said Dr. Srini Hejeebu, an internal medicine specialist with The University of Toledo Medical Center. “It might seem a little old-fashioned, but one of the best ways to find a new primary care provider really is word of mouth.”
There are a number of reasons someone might be in the market for a new primary care provider. People move, change jobs and switch insurance carriers. Doctors retire. Practices close. Sometimes, people may just want to start fresh with a new physician.
Hejeebu said a good first step is checking with your insurer for a list of in-network providers who are accepting new patients. With that in hand, start asking around.
“Talk to your friends, your family, your co-workers and see who they’re happy with. If you know people who work in healthcare, that’s another great option,” he said.
While consumer-focused websites that provide reviews and rankings for local physicians also are an option, Hejeebu cautions against putting too much stock in what you find — most primary care providers see hundreds of individual patients but may have a rating based on just three or four reviews.
Many websites also include how long a physician has been practicing, where they were educated and where they completed their residency. While some patients prefer years of experience, others like the idea of someone fresh out of school with the thinking they’ll be more up to date on the latest innovations.
In Hejeebu’s mind, neither opinion is right or wrong. It’s more valuable, he said, to focus on finding a provider whose philosophy matches your own.
“Some patients want to try everything but medicine, other patients prefer to start with medication. Providers have different approaches too,” he said. “We’re all going to encourage heathy habits, but some providers are more focused than others on a holistic approach that includes diet, exercise and lifestyle changes. You want someone who has the same thought process.”
Another thing to consider, Hejeebu said, is whether the practice is part of a larger, multispecialty group.
At UTMC, for example, primary care providers know and work closely with a range of specialists. That relationship can help expedite testing and treatment, and sometimes cut down on wait times to see a particular kind of specialist.
Your search for a primary care provider also doesn’t have to be limited to physicians.
Many practices, including UTMC’s family medicine and internal medicine clinics, also employ nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
In most circumstances, Hejeebu said, patients won’t notice a difference between the care they would receive from a nurse practitioners or physician assistants and the physicians with whom they work. One benefit is that patients may be able to get an appointment more quickly with a nurse practitioner or physician assistant.
In the end, it comes down to finding someone whose guidance and experience you trust.
“From preventative medicine to treatment of chronic health conditions, primary care is such an important piece of your overall wellness,” Hejeebu said. “You have to be comfortable with your primary care provider. It can take a few visits to start that relationship, but once you develop it, it continues to grow.”