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How to Choose a Physician

iStock 000019237789SmallOne of the most important decisions that you will ever make is choosing a primary care physician. You must find a doctor that you are comfortable with and with whom you feel that you can communicate. A doctor can not be of much help if they are unable to communicate with their patient. If you are looking for a new doctor, call the doctor's office and ask if you can come in and meet the doctor. If you are able to do this, be prepared with the questions that are important to you.


You will first probably be interested in what type of residency the doctor completed. Most primary care physicians will have completed residencies in either internal medicine or family medicine. You will also want to know if they are board certified in their specialty. Physicians who specialize in caring for seniors may have done a fellowship in geriatric medicine. Until recently, most primary care physicians also had an opportunity to take a certification exam of added qualifications in geriatric medicine. You may want to know where they went to medical school or did their training, although this is probably not that important.

Doctor-HandshakeIt is important that you try to discern the physician's general philosophy. Are they fairly aggressive about making diagnoses and treating medical conditions? Are they on the conservative side, in that they will not pursue tests if the results of said tests will not alter the course of treatment? Do they pay attention to the costs of the medications they prescribe? Will they discuss issues like advance directives (your wishes should something happen to you)? How does the doctor’s office respond to phone call? Will the doctor call you back? How does the office respond to requests for appointments? Can you get an appointment when you want one? How does the doctor feel about your bringing in a list for your appointment?

Finally, how do you feel speaking to the doctor? Are you at ease, and do you feel you can confide in him/her and speak comfortably? Does the doctor appear to be listening to you? You may want to give the doctor a brief synopsis (keep it brief, because this isn’t an actual appointment) of your medical problems, so that he or she might give you a general idea as to their approach to a particular problem.

Once you have done the above, you should have a good idea as to whether this is a physician you can be comfortable with.

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