As we grow older, we all make plenty of weighty, sometimes agonizing, decisions about our jobs, our relationships and other critical life choices. One important decision all of us must face — but we often overlook — is who we choose as a primary care physician.
Clifford Medina, MD, the Chief of General Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center, says that taking the time to find the right primary care physician is worth the effort. Choose wisely, he says, and you’ll have a trusted health professional in your corner who will ask the right questions, perform the proper tests and ensure that you always have the care you need. Choose poorly, and it’s possible that you or your doctor could let critical health concerns slip through the cracks as the years progress.
Of course, choosing the right doctor is a highly personal decision. A doctor that works for one person might not be a great candidate for someone else. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you go about selecting a primary care physician for your own health care needs.
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As is true of plumbers, electricians or any other professional, you want to start by making sure your doctor is qualified, notes Dr. Medina. “In addition, to having a degree from an accredited U.S. medical school or international equivalent, I would make sure that they are board-certified,” he says. “Either an MD or a DO, which is an osteopathic physician, can be a good choice.”
Generally, your primary care physician specializes in either family medicine or internal medicine. Though the training of these doctors is somewhat different, either makes for a solid primary care physician. Family physicians focus on the care of all members of the family, while internists specialize primarily on adult care.
Big Practice vs. Small Practice
Another consideration is whether you want your doctor to be affiliated with a hospital or large medical center or to be part of a smaller practice. Here again, this is a highly personal decision. Doctors that are part of larger organizations often hold certain advantages.
“Large networks just have more resources,” says Dr. Medina. “For example, at Mount Sinai, if you see an internist who then refers you to a cardiologist, you can stay within our network, and all of your health information will be readily available to every specialist that you see.”
While all these considerations matter, the reality is that the most important factor is how you interact with the doctor on a personal level. If you feel like he or she takes the time to listen, answers all your questions in a way you can understand and makes you feel comfortable and at ease, then it might be a match made in heaven. Conversely, if you feel rushed, uncomfortable or pressed for time with the doctor, you may want to consider looking elsewhere.
Putting It All Together
“In the end, it should be about how the doctor makes you feel,” says Dr. Medina. “If you feel comfortable telling the doctor about all your health problems and confident that he or she will help you make the right decisions, then you probably made the right choice.”
Dr. Medina notes that this process can sometimes take more than one visit. Don’t be afraid to give yourself three or four appointments. If you still don’t feel comfortable, then it’s perfectly acceptable to keep looking.
For More Info
Care Resource provides a wealth of information at its various locations throughout South Florida. careresource.org