Posted March 11, 2015
Every week more than 3 million Americans visit urgent care facilities for medical assistance. And that number doesn’t include visits to hospital emergency rooms or drop-in medical centers. While these alternative care services provide care people need, there are many reasons why it’s important to have a primary care physician who can monitor your health needs.
- Trusted adviser – When you or other family members don’t feel well, it’s comforting to see the familiar faces of health professionals at a doctor’s office you trust to provide medical advice and treatment solutions.
- Continuity of care – A primary care physician’s office records the care you receive, making it easier to schedule preventive care, such as annual exams, screenings and shots, to protect your health and track changes in existing conditions. It’s also easier to follow up with a regular doctor if there is a reaction to prescribed medications.
- Answers to questions – When you have a relationship with a primary care physician, it’s easier to contact the office with questions and to get assistance with medical concerns.
- Cost-effective care – Seeing a primary care doctor may be less expensive than visiting an urgent care center or emergency room.
- Connections to specialized care – Many insurance plans do not require a referral from a primary care physician in order to see a specialist. But it may be easier to schedule time with a specialist if your doctor’s office makes the initial appointment.
When looking for a primary care physician, here are four things to consider:
- Solicit recommendations – Ask family members, friends and co-workers for suggestions of doctors you may want to consider. Request specific reasons why you should consider them.
- Check insurance plan – Contact the doctors’ offices to verify that your insurance plan is accepted.
- Evaluate the office – Find out how long it takes to get an appointment to see the doctor, physician’s assistant or a nurse practitioner. Make sure the office hours match your schedule. Ask whether the doctor’s office will respond to questions sent via email.
- Consider online reviews – Several websites compile reviews on physicians based on feedback from consumers and other rating groups.