APRIL 14TH, 2022

10 Questions to Ask When Seeking a Primary Care Physician

Beyond our family and friends, few relationships are more important to our lives than those with our primary care physicians.

Our PCPs care for us in sickness and in health. They provide that care whether we’re rich or poor. And many of these relationships persist until they’re parted by death.

So then why does 1 in every 4 Americans lack a PCP? Although primary care plays a critical role in our well-being, PCPs have become increasingly scarce in the U.S. — particularly in rural areas of the country.

The trend is even more pronounced among younger generations of patients. Instead of opting for an ongoing relationship with a doctor who knows their health history and can help steer their care through the proper channels, many Millennials and Gen Zers choose to just head to urgent care when issues crop up.

This approach is perfectly viable, but it also causes folks to put off getting care for health concerns that don’t feel immediately pressing. And when patients defer or delay routine preventive care, it can have lasting consequences.

By establishing a relationship with a PCP and nurturing that bond over time, you can get truly comprehensive care from a partner who knows your complete health history. The trick is finding Dr. Right.

Getting to Know You

Finding a primary care physician you like is a lot like dating. While there’s nothing wrong with settling down with the first person who comes along, it’s probably a good idea to explore your options and make sure you’re pursuing a relationship that benefits both parties.

Here are 10 great questions to ask the next time you’re searching for a PCP:

  • Is this doctor in my insurance network? While you’re at it, check to make sure that this doctor (or their partners) can see you at your hospital of choice.

  • What happens outside of normal business hours? If you get sick or have a question after hours, know what sort of options you have for getting in touch with someone for help.

  • How easy is it to make appointments? Pay attention to whether this doctor offers options to schedule appointments online — or if you're required to call and talk with someone in their office whenever you need an appointment. Look for more accessible and convenient options.

  • How long does it take the doctor to get me in if I need to be seen before a routine visit? Health issues have a way of surprising all of us. The last thing you want is to be stuck waiting several weeks before you can get in for a visit with your doctor. Ask about average wait times for last-minute appointments.

  • Will I always see the doctor, or will I see a nurse practitioner sometimes? Either can help you, but you’ll just want to know how your doctor approaches visits. There might be cases where you like the nurse practitioner more than the doctor!

  • What board certification does this doctor have? Look for board certification by the American Board of Medical Specialties in family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, or OB-GYN.

  • Does this doctor share my values on sensitive subjects like sex, pregnancy, family planning, and sexual orientation? Don't be shy to ask these questions. If your doctor feels uncomfortable answering them, that should tell you something!

  • How do they handle chronic medical conditions? If you have chronic medical conditions, note whether the doctor manages these herself — or sends patients to specialists.

  • Who answers the phone when I call the doctor’s office? If there’s a receptionist, pay attention to whether they are in the doctor’s actual office. Also note whether you can talk directly to the doctor's nurse or medical assistant when you call.

  • What are my doctor’s hobbies or interests? This might seem trivial, but doctors actually do enjoy talking about this sort of thing — they’re also people. It will also give you some insight into how you might get along with them!

While we’re at it, here are two things that don’t matter (and which you shouldn’t bother asking):

  • Where did the doctor go to medical school? To be licensed in the U.S., doctors must first attend a medical school that is certified and accredited. Board certification also requires this.

  • Is this doctor a DO or an MD? In the past, this mattered more than it does now. At this point, training for DOs and MDs is incredibly similar.

There’s something truly beautiful about finding someone you want to spend the rest of your life getting to know. Whether we’re talking about a romantic partner or a medical provider, the same truth applies. Instead of hastily scribbling in “N/A” the next time paperwork asks for your primary care physician, spend some time looking for a PCP who will understand your full medical history and help you get the best care possible.

To learn more about Paytient, contact our sales team.

Related Articles

April 26th, 2022

Why You Should Make a Point of Seeing Your Eye Doctor Every Year

Most people would concede that preventive care is important, yet more than one-third of Americans skip annual eye exams for monetary reasons. Here’s why you should make a point of routinely visiting your eye doctor — even when your vision seems fine.

April 21st, 2022

What Are the Benefits of Preventive Dentistry?

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who looks forward to a visit to the dentist, but taking care of your oral hygiene is incredibly important to whole-body health. Here’s why you should start prioritizing your oral health today.

April 19th, 2022

Why You Need to Take Your Medications as Directed

It’s absolutely vital to take your medications as prescribed by your doctor. Despite of this importance, up to 50% of patients don’t take their prescriptions as instructed. Where’s the disconnect?

April 12th, 2022

Right Care, Right Place, Right Time: Your Healthcare Order of Operations

Even if you’re decades removed from studying the order of operations in math class, you probably remember the helpful acronym PEMDAS. But did you know the healthcare world also has an order of operations? Here’s a quick primer to ensure you’re getting care the right way.

April 7th, 2022

Not All Disabilities Are Evident — A Closer Look at Invisible Disabilities

People who are invisibly disabled should receive the same considerations and protections as folks with other disabilities. Nobody should face discrimination for having a disability — visible or otherwise. Here’s how business leaders can build a more inclusive and equitable environment for employees with invisible disabilities.

April 5th, 2022

Why Healthcare Consumers Don’t Shop Around for the Best Value

Giving healthcare consumers more financial responsibility doesn’t necessarily incentivize them to shop around for cost-effective care. Here are four of the main reasons healthcare consumers don’t shop around more.

March 29th, 2022

HSAs Haven’t Made Healthcare More Equitable — But They Can

Health savings accounts have not been the harbingers of healthcare equity many folks assumed they would be. While they have fallen short in terms of making healthcare more equitable, HSAs still have a lot of untapped potential.

Don’t miss a thing

Subscribe to our blog to get the latest updates.