Best way to find a good primary care doctor?
Q. What’s the best way to find a good primary care doctor?
A. A good primary care doctor can help you stay healthy, identify potential medical conditions, and find specialists when you need them. Barbra Rabson, executive director of the nonprofit coalition Massachusetts Health Quality Partners, says that while some health care organizations are moving away from the emphasis on a single doctor for primary care, “you’re more likely to get managed, coordinated care and navigate the health system well if you have a primary care provider.’’ But in some cases, patients end up frustrated with doctors who don’t give them the attention or medical advice they need.
When searching for a new doctor, Rabson says, referrals from friends and family are great places to start, but keep in mind that what’s best for one person isn’t always best for another. List criteria that are important to you, including the doctor’s gender, location, languages spoken, institutional affiliation, and accepted insurance. You can find profiles of doctors on the website of the Massachusetts Board of Registration. Websites of physician organizations and hospitals can also offer more profile information about doctors.
MHQP collects information about physician quality and lists the overall performance scores of doctors’ offices on its website, www.mhqp.org. Rabson says it collects two kinds of information: whether the physicians in an office follow current evidence-based guidelines in treating patients with particular health conditions, and how their patients rate their experiences.
In finding the best fit, it’s important to consider how the doctor’s practice is organized; you may, for instance, choose a practice that relies more on nurses and physicians’ assistants but has shorter waits for appointments. Some people prefer a doctor in a small practice, while others prefer the one-stop-shopping of a large hospital.
When meeting a doctor for the first time, Rabson says, don’t be afraid to ask questions. “You want a partnership,’’ she says. You should feel that your doctor treats you as important and unique, has a good rapport with you, and is able to communicate information clearly and understandably. And if a problem arises, she says, you may be able to find a solution if you communicate your expectations.