How Do I Choose the Best Family Doctor in My Local Area?

More than 10,566 family doctors are currently working in the United States. Are you having a hard time finding the right one for you and your loved ones?

It can be hard to sort through the thousands of doctors in your area to find the best family doctor for your needs. When you follow these steps, though, you’ll have a much easier time choosing the right person to care for you and your family.

Understand Credentials

Before you start looking for a family doctor, it’s helpful to understand what separates them from other types of medical professionals. To become a family doctor, a person must meet the following criteria:

  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • Pass the Medical College Admission Test
  • Medical Degree
  • Pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam
  • Complete a residency program
  • Complete an optional fellowship program

The American Board of Family Medicine (or ABFM) requires family doctors to get re-certified every 7 to 10 years, too. They must complete at least 150 hours of continuing medical education every 3 years as well.

Consider Your Needs

Now that you know what it takes to become a family doctor in general, your next step is to think specifically about what you and your loved ones need in a family doctor.

For example, do you or your children have specific medical conditions that need to be taken into account? How often do you anticipate going to see this doctor? Do you or they prefer to work with a male or female physician?

Addressing you and your family’s needs upfront will help you narrow down your options and avoid working with anyone who, although qualified, is simply not a good fit.

Check Insurance Coverage

If you have health insurance, you’ll need to check for family doctors who are covered by your current policy. Make sure you find a doctor who’s in your network so you don’t have to pay more for care, copays, coinsurance, etc.

It’s true that insurance plans typically limit who you can see when you seek medical care. At the same time, though, this can also help you streamline your list of choices and make a decision faster.

Ask for Referrals

Another way to find the best primary care doctor is to ask for referrals from friends and family members.

In most cases, your family and friends will have a clear idea of what you want and need in a doctor. With this information in mind, they can make recommendations and help you find someone who’s a good fit.

Consider Logistics

Logistics matter, especially when you’re looking for a family doctor.

How far away is the doctor’s office from your house or your office? Do you have to spend a lot of time on the freeway to get there? Will there be a lot of traffic if you go for a visit during busy times of the day?

Consider the doctor’s office hours, too. Are they only open from 9 am to 5 pm? Will that work with your schedule?

If it’s going to be a pain to visit your doctor, you’re probably not going to want to go very often, are you? Consider the logistics that affect your situation so you can find a doctor who is conveniently located and easy to get in touch with.

Read Reviews

These days, you can find online reviews for just about anything, including primary care doctors. Once you have a shortlist of potential doctors, do some online sleuthing to see which one has the best reviews.

Pay attention to what the reviews say, too, not just the number of stars each person has left. This will help you get a better idea of what people do or don’t like about the doctor so you can make an informed decision.

Prevent Culture Clashes

Culture clashes can make doctor’s appointments unnecessarily uncomfortable. For example, if you or someone in your family is a member of the LGBT community, you deserve to see a doctor who is an ally to the community (or a member themselves) and is knowledgeable and respectful of LGBT-specific health issues.

It may take a little more work to find a doctor who checks this particular box. However, there are lots of online resources that make it easier to find healthcare professionals who are culturally competent as well as medically proficient.

Cold Call

A good way to find out if a particular family doctor’s office is the right fit for you and your family is to place a cold call. Hop on the phone and ask if the doctor is accepting new patients.

You can learn a lot about the office and its employees based on how this call goes.

Are they polite and professional? Do they answer your questions kindly and respectfully? Did you find out that this office won’t be taking appointments for new patients for another 60 days?

Visit the Office

You can also head to a local doctor’s office in person. This gives you a chance to see how their team acts in person. Are they polite and friendly? Do they get their patients checked in and taken back to the office right away?

Depending on how busy the doctor is on this particular day, they might be able to come out and meet you face-to-face, too. This is a good way to get your questions answered and put your mind at ease regarding the doctor’s personality and bedside manner.

Go with Your Gut

Finally, as the experts at say, go with your gut.

If a doctor feels like a good fit for you and your family, work with them, even if you have to drive a little longer to get to their office. On the same note, if a doctor simply doesn’t feel right, for any reason, you don’t have to work with them.

You’re in control, and you get to decide which family doctor is best for you and your loved ones.

Find the Best Family Doctor for Your Loved Ones Today

Now that you know more about what to look for in the best family doctor, it’s time to start your search. Keep the tips listed in mind so you can find a great local family doctor in no time.

Do you need more help sorting through different types of doctors and finding the best pediatrician or family doctor? Check out the other health-related articles on our site today.