Choosing a Physician
With more than 5,800 physicians practicing in San Diego County and nearly 2,400 of them primary care physicians, the task of selecting a physician can be difficult.
Your physician — in most cases a “primary care” physician — will be selected from the areas of family practice, general practice, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, and pediatrics. It’s the responsibility of these physicians to care for all your general health care needs. For most people, a good choice for a family physician is a board certified family practice physician or an internist. For children and teens, a board certified pediatrician or family practice physician is a good choice. In most cases, your primary care physician will perform periodic routine exams, refer you to other medical/surgical specialists when necessary, and coordinate your treatment plans related to short-term or chronic medical problems.
One thing is for certain, when your health or the health of a loved one is threatened, you want to receive care from a physician who you know and trust — a physician that you believe has your best interests at heart. Knowing that your health care concerns are in good hands helps reduce stress and contributes to your overall well-being.
The following checklist of key considerations can assist you with the selection of a physician:
- Board Certification. Is the physician board certified in his or her specialty? A physician becomes board certified by completing training in a particular specialty area and passing an examination to demonstrate that he or she has the skills and experience needed to practice that medical specialty. Look for physicians who are board certified by such organizations as the American Academy of Family Practice, American Academy of Pediatrics, and other similar organizations.
- Hospital Privileges. Is the physician on staff at quality hospitals? XiMED physicians have privileges at Scripps’ Hospitals, some of the finest in the community.
- Personality and Caring Attitude. You must be able to communicate openly with your physician about medical as well as social issues. Look for a match in terms of personality and ease of communication. Your physician should leave you with the impression that your health status is important to him or her.
- Referrals from Friends and Relatives. Ask friends and family members about their physician and what they like about the relationship. Many times there is no better referral source than from a friend, relative, or trusted neighbor who has had a positive interaction with their physician. Physicians that have a track record in providing quality personal care are usually at the top of these lists.
Be proactive in establishing your relationship with a qualified physician. Health problems rarely develop when it’s convenient! Before you select a physician, call the office and make an introductory appointment. Tell the office receptionist that you are looking for a new physician. Some questions to ask are
- Is the physician accepting new patients?
- What are the office hours?
- How long does it take to schedule a routine visit?
- Does the office make same day appointments if I’m sick?
- How much time is allowed for a routine visit?
- If I cancel an appointment, will I be charged for it?
- Will the physician discuss health problems over the phone?
- Does the physician work with nurse practitioners or physician assistants? Some patients prefer these types of professionals while others prefer to see their physician at each visit. Communicate your preferences to the physician.
- Who fills in for the physician when he or she is not available?
- How do I interact with the office if there is a medical emergency?
- What hospitals does the physician use?
- Is the physician on my current insurance plan and will the office file insurance forms on my behalf?
Your relationship with your physician greatly influences your ability to make wise health decisions and the outcome of your care. Tell your physician that you want to be a partner in making decisions about your care. Your physician will be happy to know that you are interested in taking an active role in your health. Common goals, shared effort, and good communication are the basis of good doctor-patient partnerships. Few choices in life are as important as selecting a qualified and caring physician.