Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Selecting a Primary Care Physician Needs Careful Examination

(BUSINESS WIRE)--What is a primary care physician? Why do I need one? How do I go about selecting one?

Choosing the right primary care physician is critical to a patient’s healthcare strategy. But many people are not even aware of why they need one and what a primary care physician does.

Dr. Bernard Kaminetsky, Medical Director of MDVIP, a leading national group of affiliated primary care physicians who emphasize preventive care, says that, “A primary care doctor is someone who wears many hats. The doctor should be a treating physician, a diagnostician, coordinator of specialty care, a lifestyle coach and a patient advocate. Primary care doctors are in charge of a patient’s health and help steer a patient through the sometimes confusing and, from the patient’s perspective, unchartered healthcare waters.”

In order to find and select the right one, careful evaluation of the doctor and the practice is essential. Here are the top 10 questions/considerations that a potential patient should ask when selecting a primary care physician:

1. Ask friends and family for a recommendation, and find out why they like their doctor.

2. Is the doctor board certified? Board certification means that your doctor has spent many hours training and being tested for competence in a specialty. For a primary care physician, that usually means completion of residency in family practice or internal medicine.

3. Determine if your insurance is compatible with the doctor’s practice.

4. What is the doctor’s hospital affiliation? Is the doctor affiliated with a reputable, nearby hospital?

5. How convenient is the doctor’s office to your home?

6. What medical school did the doctor attend and where did the physician do his internship and residency? Does the doctor have any teaching appointments? If so, where?

7. Has the doctor been cited as a Top Doctor / Best Doctor in the media or won any awards?

8. Does the doctor have a web site, use electronic records, provide medical records on a CD?

9. Does the doctor have an informational voice mail or service on the phone when office hours have ended?

10. Is the staff that answers the doctor’s phone pleasant and helpful?

Many of these questions can be answered by simply calling the doctor’s office.

Once the patient has selected a doctor, his or her work is still not done. Dr. Kaminetsky continues, “The patient should make an appointment and be armed with as many questions as possible. On that first visit, ask the questions and write down the physician’s answers. An informed patient is much more likely to get better service and certainly a better understanding of what the doctor will offer. No question is considered too intrusive. You’re making one of the most important decisions for your health.”

Some of the questions a patient might ask on that first visit include:

* How long is the average appointment?
* How long has the doctor been in practice?
* Can you reach the doctor at any time if needed and how?
* Does the physician provide an annual physical exam?
* Will the doctor recommend specialists and coordinate your care?
* How quickly can you get an appointment?
* How helpful is the doctor’s staff?
* How promptly can you expect a return phone call or e-mail?
* Does the doctor practice preventive medicine as well as treat routine medical problems?
* What else does the doctor offer?
* Does the doctor have other specialties?
* Who covers for the doctor when he is on vacation?
* Does the doctor personally see you if you are in the hospital?

A good primary care physician should know a patient well, be easily reached so that there are no unwanted trips to the emergency room, and coordinate care in the event a specialist is needed. Most importantly, that doctor should create a health and wellness plan that focuses on nutrition, inoculations, exercise, regular evaluations and more. Patients should always tell their doctors everything so that the physician can make an informed diagnosis and plan.

In conclusion, Dr. Kaminetsky says, “Even if you go through this process, a patient and doctor relationship is one in which both sides should feel comfortable. If there is a red flag, move on, and select another doctor.”

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