Finding a Primary Care Physician

January 18, 2011

Finding a Primary Care Physician


I have been asked by people in the past what is the best way to find a doctor.  There are so many of us out there, unless you live in an underserved area, how do you make a choice.  Finding a primary care provider can be difficult at times but I would like to offer a few suggestions.  After all, this is a very important decision because this person is literally holding your life and possibly your family’s life in their hands.

First I recommend choosing a primary care provider who is Board Certified.  Believe it or not there are providers out there practicing medicine that are not board certified or even board eligible.  To be board eligible a physician had to complete their residency in their chosen profession.  To be able to practice medicine in Nebraska and in most other states and obtain a state license, a physician only has to finish their first (intern) year of residency.  Now that said there are physicians that are board eligible that are in the process of taking their board are waiting for results to become certified.  All physicians in a certain specialty have to take and pass the same test to become board certified.  Unfortunately there are occasions where a physician is board eligible, has taken the test, but has not been successful at passing that test.  So ask you prospective provider if they are board certified or find out what their status is.

Second ask your friends and family who they go to or if they have had any bad experiences with any providers.  Generally if your family likes you they will give you a good referral to a quality physician (some family members have apologized to me for sending certain family for referrals, like crazy Uncle Bob).   Many of the new patients I see come from personal referrals from family, friends and co-workers.  I find this to be a great compliment to have gained the trust of a patient that they recommend me to others.  Even crazy Aunts and Uncles, after all they make the clinic day some-what interesting.

If you can find a physician or a physician group that will do a meet and greet, that is also a good way to get a feel for a prospective provider.  These opportunities give you a chance to meet a physician in a relaxed atmosphere.  Not to mention you won’t have to be wearing a gown and sitting on a cold exam table reading a People magazine from 2009.  If these opportunities arise I suggest having some questions ready to ask your prospective physician.  If not just show up and shoot the breeze and see who you hit it off with.

The most important factor in choosing a provider is to find someone you like and trust.  Hopefully they will have a personality that jives with yours.  I tend to joke around with my patients as this helps to put them at ease but you may want someone who is more “doctor-like” meaning that they are stiff as a board and have no sense of humor (they are out there.)  Many people like to find somebody who is close to their work or home.  However as I work in Gretna, I do have many patients that come from in Omaha, Bellevue, Papillion, Louisville, Valley and even Council Bluffs.  That is because we work well together and as they say a good doctor can be hard to find.

Find a provider you trust at myprovidermatch.com

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    Dick Elkins

    2 February 2011 Most patients are not aware that if their PCP is affilated with a teaching hospital, and he puts that patient in the hospital, he the doctor, they know and trust will NOT be the doctor who takes care of them in the hospital. That patient will be attended to by a Hospitalist, a resident and probably two students. In almost all cases the patiet has never meet this Hospitalist and in fact has no choice in who this hospitalist is. Choosing your doctor while being in the hospital should be the right of the patient not the hospital. And if your stay in the hospital goes from one month into another, your hospitalist and his resident and students will change as these groups change floors on the first of every month. Why is this procedure such a secret and certainly a patient has a right to have this information long before he ever gets hospitalized.Yet I have not met a PCP who tells his patients exactly how this system is being spread throughout the country.!

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    I like how the article mentions that referrals from trusted friends or family members can be useful in finding a primary car physician. Do you suggest that I speak with family that have health problems and concerns similar to my own? I'm curious to know since I just recently moved and need to find a new doctor.

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