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How to choose a primary care provider

What to look for when selecting the right doctor for you and your family.

riskNo one knows you quite like your family. Family is there for you, by your side through the good and bad. That’s why when it comes time to choose a primary care doctor for your family, there’s a lot to think about.

As you visit with your doctor over the years, they will come to know your health history and a whole lot more. They can essentially become part of the family.

Many primary care providers have seen generations of family members. From old to young, they are specially trained to prevent and treat a variety of conditions. Scott & White family physician Terry G. Rascoe, MD of Temple Northside Clinic offers some tips of how to select a primary doctor that’s right for you.

“When you look up the word ‘primary’ it means ‘of chief importance, principal, first in order,’” says Dr. Rascoe. “In a real sense, this is what primary care is—one’s main source for health and wellness, along with the first place you begin when there’s a health concern.”

What is a Primary Care Provider?

Typically a primary care doctor treats people of all ages and conditions. They are trained in the broadest scope of evaluating, diagnosing and caring for the whole person. Regardless of your medical signs, symptoms, or the organ system involved, they can partner with you to manage your health.

The specialties typically involved in primary care include:

  • Family Medicine (also called Family Practice or General Practice)
  • General Internal Medicine
  • General Pediatrics

Many primary care clinics will also have primary care teams to optimize what is best for the patient. This means you will have your doctor, nurses, assistants and other professionals to provide comprehensive care.

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“These cohesive teams, when well designed and implemented, can provide patients with primary care across the entire spectrum of life and life circumstances,” says Dr. Rascoe.

Why Do I Need a Primary Care Doctor?

You may not have a primary care doctor and wonder why bother seeing someone unless you get sick or need help. This can be risky. Primary care providers are specially trained to oversee your care and help you prevent big problems that may go unnoticed for years. If you neglect these visits, it can cost you in the long run.

Ideally, you would have a primary care provider in place for you and your family long before problems arise, so you have already developed a relationship with someone you trust.

Benefits of a primary care doctor include:

  • Overseeing your routine care.
  • Test recommendations based on your age and conditions.
  • Seeing you within the scope of your family members.
  • Having someone who knows your health profile and preferences.
  • Valuable insights for referrals.
  • Familiar with your unique healthcare issues.
  • Ensuring you are receiving care for you as a whole person, not just a specific organ system or problem.
  • Checking in and monitoring all major health issues and follow-up care.
  • Convenience of all family members having appointments with the same doctor.

“Primary care is at the heart of creating a real medical home designed for patients, families and communities,” says Dr. Rascoe.

How Do I Choose a Primary Care Provider?

If you’re new to choosing a primary provider, you may not know where to start. You can talk to friends, family members or consult with your insurance coverage.

“In primary care, rapport is critical,” says Dr. Rascoe.

With your primary care doctor, you need to feel like they could be part of the family. Your interactions should be comfortable, informative and beneficial to you and your loved ones.

Dr. Rascoe adds the following things to look for:

  • Someone who is accessible— both in appointment availability and in communication style.
  • Someone who has a similar philosophical approach to health and wellness. (For example, a person that sees all medications as a last resort would best be served by a provider with a similar approach)
  • Someone within your insurance coverage.
  • Someone who fits your preferences for gender and age range.
  • Someone who practices in a convenient location.
  • Someone who you and your family trust.

Simply having a primary care doctor listed on your insurance card won’t help you in the long run. However, seeing one person for all your well visits, chronic conditions and other matters will make sure you’re being looked after and cared for—just like family.

About the author

Jill Taylor
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I contribute content and skills as a freelance writer for Baylor Scott & White Health. I enjoy improving our connection with our readers, patients and communities by assisting with a wide range of writing projects.

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How to choose a primary care provider