Many health insurance plans require you to designate a primary care physician, but finding the right doctor can be difficult.
Consumer Reports has some suggestions on how to make sure you find a good one. Medical Adviser Dr. Orly Avitzur says your primary care doctor is critical to your health.
"Evidence suggests that having a primary care doctor means you're less likely to die of cancer, heart disease or stroke. You're also less likely to need to go to an emergency room or be admitted to a hospital," Avitzur said.
Use your first appointment with any new doctor to make sure you'll work well together. Did he or she listen without interrupting? Did the doctor ask more than just a checklist of yes/no questions?
Primary care physician James Welters said a lot can be learned by just chatting with your doctor. "Some of the more fortuitous things are when people really come in for one thing but as you start to talk to them about it, it's really something else. And if you had just went down the path of, say, abdominal pain and ignored their other concerns, then you might've missed something," he said.
You want a doctor who also asks for your input, like how you feel about possible treatment options.
"Patients who have a strong relationship with their physician not only report getting better care but feel better about their overall health," Avitzur said.
Above all, you want a doctor who orders the right tests and prescribes the best possible treatment.
Reliable data on those measures are hard to find, although physician report cards are becoming more common.
To see if there's a report card on your doctor, click here.
You also want a primary care physician you can afford, so call the office to make sure the doctor is in your insurance plan and find out his or her hospital affiliation.
If the hospital is outside your network, you could be hit by a big bill.
Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.
(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2014. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
7 On Your Side: Consumer Reports has tips on choosing a primary care physician
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