The prospect of choosing a new primary care physician can be difficult, to say nothing of daunting. Your primary care physician isn’t just another doctor, they’re someone you work with on your health goals and challenges. Thankfully the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association has put together some great tips.
Whether you’re new to Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance, recently moved or are just ready for a change, selecting a primary care physician is an important first step toward managing your healthcare. Your primary care doctor is your medical “home.” It’s the doctor you visit for most medical needs, including wellness visits and routine screenings, non-emergency illnesses like earaches and sore throats, and the person you speak to about your health questions and concerns. If you have an HMO, your primary care physician will also be the person who refers you to see a specialist.
Some patient-primary care relationships can span decades, while others will be short-lived because you change insurance or move. No matter how long you plan to see your primary care physician, the relationship is an important one. You’ll want to select someone you feel comfortable having honest conversations with, someone with expertise in the areas that meet your health needs, and someone who is “in-network” for your health insurance plan.
Here are five tips for choosing a new primary care physician:
1. Determine Which Doctors Are “In-Network”
Most health plans have negotiated special, discounted rates with certain doctors and hospitals in your area, and you will pay less out of pocket for visiting those doctors, who are called “in-network” for insurance purposes. Ensuring that you select an “in-network” doctor will help you avoid a surprise “out-of-network” charge or having to pay in full out of pocket because the doctor you’ve selected doesn’t accept your insurance plan.
To find a list of “in-network” doctors and hospitals, search the doctor directory or “provider finder” on your Blue Cross Blue Shield company website, or call the 1-800 number on the back of your member ID card.
2. Find a Doctor with Expertise that Meets Your Health Needs
Now that you have the list of in-network doctors, you can begin narrowing it down. There are several different types of doctor that will be identified as a primary care physician – typically Family Practice, Internal Medicine or General Practice. There are also doctors who focus on children, called Pediatricians, who will serve as the primary care physician for your child.
Family Practice – Family practice physicians are able to treat patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly. They are generalists who can treat a wide variety of conditions, and often can also treat ailments you’d normally see a specialist for, like sports injuries or some women’s health needs.
Internal Medicine – Internal medicine physicians typically treat adults and specialize in the prevention, diagnosis and management of disease and chronic conditions.
General Practice – General Practice physicians are like family practice physicians and can treat patients of any gender or age. This category is one area where you might also find osteopaths, which are physicians that practice a type of alternative medicine with special focus on the musculoskeletal system, and are distinguished by the “D.O.” after their name instead of “M.D.”