What is primary care? Part 1

How do I choose a primary care physician?

Choosing a doctor can be difficult! After all, you will be going to this doctor to discuss almost all of your health needs and concerns (at least initially!). You need to be able to trust your doctor and build a relationship with them. Here are some questions to consider along with a few tips for finding a primary care doctor:

1) How easy is it to get in touch with your doctor and their office?

a. If you call the office to make your first appointment and end up in a phone tree with 9 choices, followed by needing to be transferred to 3 different people, then perhaps that may predict communication problems in the future! Does the doctor’s office offer online scheduling? Can you text message with your doctor? Patients value having an accessible primary care doctor—they like to know that they can quickly and easily get on the doctor’s schedule when they need to be seen.

2) Who do your friends go to? Why?

a. Of course, we all have friends whose judgement we question 😊 However, your friends likely share your values as you and you likely get along with similar people. Also, your friends are likely to give you a truthful opinion when you ask them how they like their primary care doctor.

3) What services does the primary care doctor offer?

a. Some primary care doctors offer:

i.    Basic GYN care for women
ii.   Care for children; some may also provide prenatal care
iii.  Dispensing of medicines
iv.  Drawing labs
v.   Minor office-based procedures (skin biopsies, stitches, joint injections, etc.)
vi.  In-office testing (lung testing, EKGs, etc.)
vii. After-hours access for care

You can’t always anticipate your needs but the more services that are offered the better!

4) Write down the 5 most important qualities that you are looking for in a doctor.

a. Do you want someone who is a good listener? Thorough? Speedy? Direct? Young? Experienced? Look at positive online reviews to see if those qualities are mentioned. Take negative reviews with a grain of salt!

5) How much will it cost for you to be seen?

a. The last thing you want is to have a primary care doctor who you but whose services you can’t afford. Are the prices at your primary care doctor’s office transparent or will you receive a surprise bill in the mail? Do you know how much your labs and medicines will cost before you have them done?

6) Does the doctor offer a meet-and-greet session?

a. After following the steps above, if you still have questions, some primary care offices will allow you to come in for a 15 to 30-minute session to meet the doctor. This is especially helpful for people who are very anxious about seeing a doctor or who live far away and want to see if they feel comfortable before driving a distance to the office.


What is the meaning of Family Medicine?

As the name suggests, a family physician can take care of your entire family – from the day of your birth (even before!) to your last day on Earth, as I like to say! During our post-medical school residency years, we are trained by many different types of doctors including pediatricians, OB/GYNs, surgeons, psychiatrists, neurologists, ENTs and more. Therefore, family physicians are trained to do minor surgical procedures in the office, care for kids and adults, provide various GYN services, among many other comprehensive services for patients. Some family doctors choose to do a fellowship and are trained more specifically to do more advanced surgical procedures, deliver babies (including C-sections), work on public policy and advocacy, work in an emergency room, and the list goes on. I love family medicine because as family physicians, we can be trained to provide care for patients in many different settings. Some family doctors work in a residency training program where they may see patients in the hospital, out of the hospital, and deliver babies. Other family doctors only see patients in their clinics. The broad basis of our training allows family doctors to follow their interests, which is really nice!

Stay tuned for Part two next month as we delve deeper into this important topic, providing you with more valuable insights to guide your healthcare decisions.

Melissa Boylan MD, FAAFP
Family Physician and Owner of Noreta Family Medicine