Your first-grader has an earache, and your teenager sprained her wrist. You’re overdue for your flu shot, and your blood pressure is a little high. Wouldn’t it be nice to take care of all these needs in one place? If you have a family doctor, you can.
Perhaps you’ve asked yourself, “Do I need a family doctor?” If you need more simplicity in your life — and who doesn’t? — the answer is yes. But there are other reasons for choosing family care. It’s easier to build a relationship with someone that you see multiple times a year. And because family doctors know more about you than a specialist would, they often have a better understanding of your health issues.
By the way, you don’t have to have a spouse or kids to go to a family doctor. Even if you are solo, you can claim all the benefits of having a family doctor, including these often overlooked reasons.
#1 You could save money.
Many studies show that you’ll save money if you use a primary care physician for as many of your health needs as possible. Specialists are usually more expensive, regardless of whether you have insurance or pay out of pocket.
#2 You’ll have less stress.
You may have to travel farther to see a specialist. Why not just go somewhere familiar? Even if your specialist is close to home, you’ll be finding a new location, figuring out parking, and learning how the practice operates.
#3 You can get to know the staff.
Your doctor’s office runs through the efforts of several team members. When you have a family doctor, you can build relationships with them, too. It’s good to have friendly, familiar faces in the room, whether they are filing your insurance or holding your hand during a procedure.
#4 Your health history may be easier to access.
Today, we share more health records digitally. With your permission, different doctors may be able to go online and retrieve your complete health history — if they have time. Still, if your family doctor takes care of most of your health needs, you’ll have more information in one digital location. Modern healthcare is data-driven and having information easily accessible is important.
#5 You’ll gain a life coach.
With a family doctor, you’re more likely to get continuity of care. This is a very important concept in the medical world. It means that you and your doctor work together on your health for the long term.
How to Choose a Family Doctor
There are four basic steps to choosing a family doctor:
- Survey the field. Look at the family doctors in your area. Mark off the ones who aren’t taking new patients. If you have insurance, check for practices that accept your insurance.
- Narrow it down. Look at the doctors’ online profiles and the office locations and hours. Ask friends for recommendations. Get it down to one or two choices.
- Make contact. Call the office. Do they answer the phone? If not, do they respond promptly to voicemail? Find out how long it will be before you can get an appointment.
- Meet the doctor. Schedule an office visit and get a feel for how well the doctor listens. Observe how well the office operates. Look for efficient procedures and a relaxed atmosphere. Use the online portal and make sure it is user-friendly.
If you make it through all four steps with no red flags, congratulations! You have a new doctor to help you on your journey to better health.