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How to Choose the Right Doctor for You and Your Family


Whether you just moved to a new town and are asking yourself, "Where's a clinic near me?" — or perhaps you have a new health issue, or your health insurance changed and your current general doctor isn't covered on your new policy — chances are you’ll be looking for a new family doctor or specialist.

It can take some effort and time, however, to find a reputable primary health care physician (PCP) you'll be happy and comfortable with. Since your doctor is someone you’ll be building a relationship with and will be providing health care services to you and possibly your family members, it’s an important decision.

Yet, it’s a decision not to take lightly since your health is at stake. While you need to play your part too, your PCP has a vital role in keeping you healthy. Conducting research, practicing due diligence and asking smart questions can help you find Dr. Right rather than Dr. Wrong.

What a Family Practice Doctor Does?

Your family practice doctor takes care of you and your family’s physical health, and sometimes your emotional and mental health too. Your doctor learns about your past medical history and your genetic health history in order to better treat you. He or she is skilled in a number of areas of medicine and is trained to take care of you and your family throughout all stages of life.

A general family practitioner is experienced in diagnosing and treating a whole range of health-related conditions and problems. When unable to treat a certain condition, your doctor will refer you to a specialist.

The First Step: What to Consider When Choosing Your Family Practice Doctor

Many factors go into choosing the best primary care physician for you and your family, such as board certification, insurance, hospital affiliation and convenience. You need to decide which factors are most important to you when selecting your PCP, for example:

  • Does it matter to you if your doctor is a man or a woman?
  • Do you prefer a family doctor who is part of a large group or has an individual practice?
  • Is there a specific hospital that you’d like your doctor to be affiliated with?
  • Are there onsite laboratories and other testing available?

You may decide that some factors are essential, while others are simply nice to have.

Let’s look at the main factors in selecting a primary health care physician in more detail so that you can make the best decision when selecting your family doctor.

Board certification. Checking to see if your physician is board certified should be a given. It’s one of the best indicators of training and competency. A board-certified doctor has gone through rigorous residency and training in addition to testing and peer evaluation. According to U.S. News & World Report, a 2010 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine described the relationship between patient quality of care and board certification as a “robust relationship.”

You can check a physician’s board status at, which is provided by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Experience and Credentials. Your primary health care doctor should be educated and trained in managing and treating standard medical issues like sinus infections and the flu, as well as more serious chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Your PCP should also be able to direct and refer you to specialists in areas outside of general family care. The best doctor will communicate with the specialists to ensure nothing falls through the cracks or is left out in your medical care.

You may also want to see if a physician is a fellow in one or more medical organizations. If so, this is a good sign because it indicates that the doctor receives updated and continuing education in his or her field of medicine.

Convenience. Your convenience is affected by how patient-friendly the office is. Some questions you can ask in this regard include:

  • Are X-rays and lab work done in the office or elsewhere?
  • If the family practice doctor is unavailable or too booked up to see you, will you be able to see another doctor in that office?
  • Is the office open on Saturdays and evenings?
  • Is the physician available through email?
  • Does the practice offer virtual appointments?

Comfortability. Another essential component in choosing the right primary health care physician for you and your family is finding one with whom you feel comfortable and are able to communicate effectively with. Although your family doctor should be honest and direct, he or she should also be compassionate when dealing with your health care. You should be comfortable asking questions. A good family doctor should have no problem or feel threatened by answering them.

Health Insurance Coverage. You can find family practitioners in your network through your insurance company's website or directory. Because doctors sometimes drop (or add) insurance plans, make sure your type of insurance will be accepted before signing on with a doctor.

Gender. Many people select a general doctor based on the physician's gender. For instance, a woman may request a woman doctor, particularly a gynecologist. However, you may not be satisfied with the type of medical care you receive if you base your decision solely on gender.

Good Fit. Did you know that half of Americans (59 percent) choose their doctor based on relationship and personality? According to a 2014 survey from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, this statistic is true. And only 29 percent say the outcome of their health or the delivery of care they receive was most important.

Remember, you’ll be building a relationship with this health care professional long term. Therefore, it's a good idea to ensure that your doctor's demeanor and personality fit with yours. To help with this, set up an initial consultation before you make your decision. Take notice of these areas, for example:

  • Does the doctor interrupt you when you talk?
  • Are your questions answered fully?
  • Does he or she seem rushed?
  • Did the doctor discuss your medical history in detail and ask you to come back for a follow-up appointment?

These are important things to consider:

The Staff. The doctor's office staff are the people that you’ll likely be dealing with the most outside of your actual doctor’s appointment. They will check you in and out of your appointment, give you messages from the doctor, answer your phone calls and address any concerns with your insurance. The staff should be efficient, respectful and friendly. You should not only expect quality in your family physician, but in the doctor's team as a whole.

To evaluate how the staff operates and interacts with you, you can give their office a test call. Talk with the receptionist on the phone for a few minutes to get an idea of how long a typical office visit is, how far in advance you need to schedule appointments and how well the doctor sticks to the scheduled appointment. If the family doctor isn't able to meet his or her schedule due to a heavy patient workload, it could be an indication that the practice is more concerned with filling its schedule rather than patient care.

Technology. Is the doctor’s office technologically advanced? Many doctors today have what’s known as a patient portal. This is a type of secured website that allows you to view your health information at any time, book appointments, request refills on your prescriptions, get lab results or email the doctor. Your medical history, health records, prescription information and other information is often shared with other specialists. In today’s age, having a family doctor with a practice that offers state-of-the-art technology, facilities and electronic medical records may be an important consideration for you when choosing a PCP.

Directories, Reviews, and Awards. You may be tempted to type something like "walk in doctors near me" in the browser of your computer, and you’ll be able to locate clinics near you. The American Board of Medical Specialties' Certification Matters database, the American Medical Association's Doctor Finder website and the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health can help you find local doctors as well.

It is important to be cautious about selecting your general doctor solely upon examination of websites that allow patients to post reviews about physicians. Keep in mind that the average family practice doctor could have hundreds, if not thousands, of patients, and typically only a small handful of these patients take the time to go on a site like this to post reviews. So, if a doctor is rated with 4 stars, that doesn't necessarily mean all the patients feel that way.

On the other hand, if the doctor or practice has received awards, quality designations, and accreditations certifications from reputable organizations, such as the Gold Seal of Approval from The Joint Commission, you can have confidence in the high quality of services the physician and practice provides.

The Next Step: Schedule a Consultation

When you find a physician who you believe is a good fit, it's now time to schedule your appointment for a consultation. During this visit, you can get a sense of whether you can communicate openly and effectively with the doctor, as well as build a relationship. You may have to pay a fee for your consultation, but it provides you with the opportunity to get your questions answered and really scrutinize the doctor.

During this visit, ensure:

  • You're comfortable communicating with the doctor
  • Your questions are answered thoroughly
  • You’re able to understand how the physician discusses and explains things
  • You're listened to and are taken seriously

Preventative Health Care and the Future

Choosing your family doctor is only the first step. Building a patient/doctor relationship is the rest of the process. Remember, it takes time to build a relationship with a family physician. It is within your rights and is very smart to set up an initial phone call with the physician you're thinking about working with. Many doctors will take time out of their busy schedules to do this, and if they do, it is another good sign that they are someone you are able to trust and relate to down the road.

You may also be wondering if you still need a family doctor when you don't have any current health conditions or issues. The answer is yes. General doctors are experienced and trained in preventive medicine and wellness. They understand that it's much better to prevent a health problem than to have to overcome one. The physician should work with you and your family and educate you on how to make healthy choices in your life.

Your primary health care physician coordinates your appropriate health screenings, such as colonoscopies, mammograms, pap smears and immunizations. Your PCP also coordinates your care with applicable specialists. All of these important tasks are designed to keep you at your healthiest.

Choosing Crystal Run Healthcare

The physicians and health care services provided by Crystal Run Healthcare tick all of the above boxes and more. We offer:

  • Multiple locations and expanded hours
  • Online and virtual appointments
  • Experienced, board-certified physicians
  • Walk-in and urgent care appointments
  • Patient portal and electronic health records
  • Robust specialty care
  • State-of-the-art technology, laboratory and digital diagnostic radiology services
  • Pulmonary function laboratory
  • Accredited sleep lab
  • Modern ambulatory surgery center
  • Accreditations certifications, Gold Seal of Approval and quality designation

Whether you need urgent care or are looking for a new doctor for you or a family member, contact us here at Crystal Run Healthcare. You can also use our handy “Find a Doctor” search engine.

For even more help in choosing the right doctor for you and your family, we encourage you to download our PCP Worksheet.