8 Tips for Choosing a Family Medicine Doctor

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on May 11, 2020
  • Smiling medical doctor
    A Personal Decision
    Choosing a family medicine doctor is one of the most important and personal decisions you can make. Your family medicine doctor serves as your primary care doctor and your partner in health. How do you find the best family medicine doctor who is right for you? Here are important factors to keep in mind.
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    1. Get Referrals
    Get started by creating a list of potential family medicine doctors. To do this, ask family, friends, and other healthcare providers for recommendations. Then, take the time to research the doctors’ credentials and experience on Healthgrades.com. To narrow down your list, call each family medicine doctor’s office and ask if he or she is accepting new patients. If so, schedule a consult appointment to meet and interview the doctor.
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    2. Research the Family Medicine Doctor’s Credentials
    Board certification is one of the most important factors to consider when you are choosing a family medicine doctor. It tells you that the doctor has the necessary training, skills and experience to provide family medicine healthcare. Also confirm that the doctor has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find the family medicine doctor’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history on Healthgrades.com and state websites.
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    3. Consider the Family Medicine Doctor’s Experience
    Experience matters when it comes to preventing or treating health conditions. The more experience a family medicine doctor has in family medicine, the better your results will be. Ask how long the doctor has been practicing family medicine and if they have experience in treating your condition. If you know you need a specific procedure, ask how many of the procedures the doctor has performed and find out about complication rates—complications the doctor has encountered as well as your own risk of complications.
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    4. Consider Gender
    It’s important for you to feel comfortable with your family medicine doctor’s gender because you will need to openly discuss personal information. Think about if gender makes a difference to you and whether you might feel inhibited or awkward in front of a family medicine doctor of a certain gender. If you have a gender-related condition, ask the family medicine doctor about his or her training and experience specifically related to your condition.
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    5. Ask About Telehealth Capabilities
    Healthcare providers can diagnose and treat some patients using telecommunications technology, including two-way video, smartphones, and email; it's called telehealth. Ask if the doctor offers telehealth capabilities. Telehealth doesn’t replace hands-on in-person office visits, but for many patients, it means fewer trips to the doctor’s office. Some conditions can be managed by sending symptoms and vital signs you collect at home and having a “virtual visit” with your provider. Telehealth can also be used for routine follow-ups and minor complaints too, making it a convenient option. Check to make sure your health insurance will pay for telehealth services.
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    6. Evaluate Communication Style
    Choose a family medicine doctor with whom you are comfortable talking and who supports your information needs. When you first meet the doctor, ask a question and notice how he or she responds. Does he or she welcome your questions and answer them in ways that you can understand? During your visit, did you feel rushed or engaged? Find a family medicine doctor who shows an interest in getting to know you, who will consider your treatment preferences, and who will respect your decision-making process.
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    7. Read Patient Reviews
    Reading what other people have to say about a doctor can provide insight into how a doctor practices medicine, as well as how his or her medical practice is operated. People typically convey their experience with scheduling appointments, wait times, office environment, and office staff friendliness in patient reviews. Unlike specialty clinics, the family medicine clinic will become your 'medical home.' Be honest with yourself, was it a pleasant experience? You can learn how well patients trust the doctor, how much time he or she spends with their patients, and how well he or she answers questions.
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    8. Know What Your Insurance Covers
    Your insurance coverage is a practical matter. To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your care, you may need to choose a family medicine doctor who participates in your plan. You should still consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and hospital quality as you select a family medicine doctor from your plan.
8 Tips for Choosing a Family Medicine Doctor
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2015 Jul 12
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.