#ask a md
It is important to choose your doctor with care, because quality varies. For example, the Pacific Business Group on Health asked patients of California doctors’ groups how they rated their care. The results? More than 80 percent of the patients said they were satisfied with their care. But fewer than two-thirds were happy with the ease of getting that care.
This chapter can help you choose a primary care doctor who will meet your needs and give you quality care. The information also may be useful in choosing any specialists you might need. Primary care doctors are specially trained to serve as your main doctor over the long term. They provide your medical and health care, help you stay healthy, and help to manage your care. Your primary care doctor can refer you to specialists (doctors who treat only certain parts of the body, conditions, or age groups) if you need them.
Quick Check for Quality
Look for a doctor who:
- Is rated to give quality care.
- Has the training and background that meet your needs.
- Takes steps to prevent illness-for example, talks to you about quitting smoking.
- Has privileges at the hospital of your choice.
- Is part of your health plan, unless you can you afford to pay extra.
- Encourages you to ask questions.
- Listens to you.
- Explains things clearly.
- Treats you with respect.
Internists and family physicians are the two largest groups of primary care doctors for adults. Many women see obstetricians/gynecologists for some or all of their primary care needs. Pediatricians and family practitioners are primary care doctors for many children.
Physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse midwives are trained to deliver many aspects of primary care. Physician assistants must practice in partnership with doctors. Nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives can work independently in some States, but not others.
Doctors and Health Plans
If you already are in a health plan, your choices may be limited to doctors who participate in the plan. But if you have a choice of plans, you may want to first think about which doctor(s) you would like to use. Then, you may be able to choose a plan that has your choice of doctor(s).
Decide What You Want and Need in a Doctor
What is most important to you in a doctor? A few ideas are listed below. Add your own to create a list that will help you choose a doctor who is right for you.
My doctor must be highly rated by a consumer or other group. You will want to find out who did the ratings. Is the information reliable? Who collected it? Does the group have something to gain from the ratings?
My doctor needs to have experience with my condition(s). Research shows that doctors who have a lot of experience with a condition tend to have better success with it.