How to Choose a Primary Care Physician

Family having fun outside blowing dandelion seeds.


Your primary care physician is your first line of defense in preventing disease and addressing health issues that may come up. They typically handle checkups, screenings and treatment for minor issues. By working with a primary care physician, you can monitor these issues to detect serious health conditions in their early stages when they are easier to manage. When you learn how to choose a primary care physician, you begin with your own specific needs.

Your age, or the age of your family members, is an excellent place to start. Primary care physicians can include pediatricians, doctors who work in family practices and geriatric doctors. Some people find it convenient to have the same primary care physician for all members of their family. This streamlines childhood vaccinations and treatments for infections that may affect an entire household.

Find a Primary Care Physician

Search Now

What Is the Difference Between a Doctor and a Primary Care Physician?

By definition, primary care physicians are doctors, but not all doctors are primary care physicians. Many doctors are specialists focused on a part of your body, or a specific condition or treatment method. They can include people with special training in cardiology, neurology, radiology, urology, oncology or many other disciplines.

Instead of being the first doctor you see, you would visit a specialist after being referred by your primary care physician.

What Questions Should I Ask a New Primary Care Physician?

The National Institute on Aging lists the following questions patients can ask when choosing new primary care physicians:

  • Are you board-certified? If so, in what field?
  • Do you accept my or my family’s health plans?
  • How can I communicate with you outside of office visits? By telephone, email, text message or health care portal app?
  • How far in advance do I have to make appointments?
  • How is your office staff prepared to assist when needed?
  • What days/hours do you see patients? What is your policy for after-hours care?

What qualities are you looking for in a doctor?

Before you start the process, it’s good to figure out what you want regarding who is caring for you.

Consider the following questions:

  • Do you have a preference of having a male or female physician?
  • What proximity does the physician have to be located in?
  • How much experiences does the primary care physician need to have?
  • Does the primary care office have goals or standards that they strive toward or have to meet?

What Kinds of Doctors Should I See?

All adults should see a primary care physician every year to maintain regular health screenings. These annual visits keep your physician in the loop of any lifestyle or health changes you may be experiencing. Your appointments are great opportunities to discuss health goals and nutrition.

Whether or not you regularly need to see a doctor, make sure your primary care physician is someone you feel comfortable visiting. Many women prefer to see a primary care physician who can also be their OB/GYN. You should also check that the doctor you choose accepts your insurance coverage.

Depending on your health, you may need to see additional doctors alongside your primary care physician. In most cases, these doctors will be recommended to you by your primary care physician, as they will specialize in your health condition.

What is your desired care?

Once you’ve figured out what type of person you want caring for you. It’s important to figure out how you want to be cared for.

Consider the following questions:

  • Do you need a primary care provider that speaks a specific language?
  • Is your medical condition chronic and do you want a doctor who specializes treating that condition or chronic illness?
  • Find out if medical care can be provided during the evening, weekends or if virtual care can be provided.