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7 Things to Consider When Choosing a Primary Care Physician

November 5, 2020

Choosing a new primary care physician (PCP) isn’t a decision you should rush into. Like with any relationship, your PCP should be someone you get along with and trust, as this can affect your overall health.

Dr. Stephanie Flaherty, family medicine physician with Jefferson Health – New Jersey, suggests starting with a comprehensive list of all the characteristics you’re looking for in a PCP. Then, you should do the following:

1. Check out the location:

Chances are, if you’re looking for a new doctor, you’ll want them located relatively close to home, says Dr. Flaherty. “Your perspective on location may change over time, as some people become more willing to travel farther distances for doctors they have a stronger rapport with.”

A quick Google search can show you all options within your desired travel distance. Not only will a convenient location fit into a busy schedule, but it often makes people more inclined to keep appointments scheduled and show up when they’re not feeling well.

2. Check out the atmosphere:

In addition to looking online, you might want to drive around your town to the different practices you’re considering, suggests Dr. Flaherty. Even though it’s external, accessibility of parking may be an important factor.

The atmosphere in-office is more often the determining factor, continues Dr. Flaherty. “Prior to the pandemic, I would advise visiting in-person to set-up a new patient visit and ‘feeling things out,’ however, you may not be able to truly experience the atmosphere until your first visit.”

3. Ensure you’ve got coverage:

One of the most important factors is whether or not your insurance covers the practice(s) you’re looking into. If you’re on Medicaid or Medicare, most office staff will be able to answer your questions. For more individualized plans, however, call directly to your insurance provider, advises Dr. Flaherty. “Out-of-network costs and other expenses are not typically known at the office level.”

4. Ask for an interview:

Depending on the PCP, you may be able to schedule an interview visit prior to your new-patient visit, says Dr. Flaherty. “I have a lot of parents do this for their children, so they can learn more about my treatment philosophy and express any concerns. It can be incredibly beneficial.”

5. Ask around/review online recommendations:

Family and friend recommendations are the easiest come by, says Dr. Flaherty, but don’t hesitate to look online, and especially on social media, for opinions from your community members.

6. Don’t ignore your specific health needs:

If you’re looking for a PCP who specializes in pediatric, geriatric, or LGBTQ+ care, don’t sacrifice these needs for convenience, says Dr. Flaherty. “Many practices/PCPs openly identify with providing specific types of care. You may have to search around for a while to find the right fit, but don’t get discouraged.”

7. Make sure the relationship works:

“This is arguably the most important factor to consider,” said Dr. Flaherty. “You have to have a good relationship with your PCP; if you don’t, you may not open up about important health concerns, and that can hurt you in the long run.”

If you have a poor experience, don’t be afraid to look elsewhere – but don’t base this off check-in or wait-time, adds Dr. Flaherty. “Base it off of your interaction. If you feel uncomfortable or have a gut feeling that the relationship isn’t going to work, you can very easily switch providers. At the end of the day, we want you to find the best possible care.”

To learn more about Primary & Specialty Care services at Jefferson Health - New Jersey, click HERE or call 844-542-2273.