The best healthcare for your family starts with a primary care provider (PCP). You turn to these doctors and Advanced Practice Providers (nurse practitioners and physician assistants) for routine medical matters, management of long-term conditions, and referral to specialists. They are professionals who offer consistent healthcare over the years and decades.
According to one long-term study, access to a primary care doctor leads to better health experiences and high-value care. Knowing how to find a primary care doctor won’t just make your life a little easier — it may also improve your health outcomes.
It’s easy to answer the question, “what is a primary care physician.” It’s harder to pin down who is the right family doctor for you. To find out, follow these tips. The process involves self-reflection, weighing practical considerations, and assessing personal comfort levels.
1. Consider Your Personal Health Needs
Family doctors are general practitioners. They are your first point of contact for all kinds of medical concerns. But some have areas of interest or serve a particular group of patients. You may want a doctor who knows about your ongoing health conditions or those for which you have a family history. Perhaps you need someone who knows about heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or mental health.
However, your family doctor’s access to specialists is another aspect to think about. Have a look at the range of services within your primary care physician’s practice and network. Then, you can have an idea of how easy it is to get the full scope of care you need throughout your lifetime. Think of your primary care physician as the quarterback of your healthcare team, organizing your consultants, gathering results, ordering tests, and making sure the team is working together to maximize your health.
Primary care is a big part of Intermountain Health. In addition, our healthcare teams offer services in many important areas that patients can access:
- myGeneration Senior Clinics, specializing in delivering care to those who have a Medicare Advantage plan
- Value based clinics, focused on delivering high quality care to adults during their working years
- InstaCare Urgent Care, for non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries, normally within 1 hour
- Cardiology, focusing on heart health
- Endocrinology, focusing on managing conditions like thyroid, diabetes, high cholesterol, and pituitary diseases
- Pediatrics, serving children from birth to young adulthood
- Oncology and Hematology, caring for people through their cancer journey
- Advanced Minimally Invasive Surgery, specializing in women’s health procedures for fibroids, cysts, endometriosis, pelvic pain, and vaginal surgery
- In-Office Women’s Health Procedures, including routine women’s health, family planning, biopsies, cystoscopy, and endometrial ablation
- Fertility, including genetic testing and preconception counseling
- Pregnancy Care, caring for parents and child during their pregnancy journey
- Pelvic Organ Prolapse/Incontinence
- Pelvic Pain and Surgery
- Preventive and Gynecological Care
Intermountain Health makes it easy to find a provider. You can search by specialty, gender, zip code, and languages the doctor speaks.
2. Consult Close Friends and Family
Choosing a primary care physician is a lot about trust. A good place to start in your search is friends and family. Ask them to share their recommendations for good doctors in the area. But, don’t worry if you don’t feel right about a doctor someone else spoke of highly. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to healthcare, and choosing a new doctor is a very personal process.
Once you find a few doctors to meet, schedule some appointments to get to know them. If you do not get along or feel that the doctor may not be a good fit, continue your search. It’s critical that you are comfortable discussing matters with your provider. If you are uncomfortable, you may be afraid to discuss a health matter that could be very important.
Another part of your search should also consider the staff in the office. Most providers rely on their staff to help them communicate with their patients. Ideally, the office staff will work with you to better your care experience. They are an equally important part of the primary care experience.
3. Look at Distance and Location
Make it easier for yourself to visit your primary care physician. Being nearby takes up less time going to appointments, so you won’t put off going to the doctor because the office is out of the way. Intermountain Health’s find a provider page lets you search by zip code. That can give you an idea of which doctors are practicing in an area near you and can provide you with the excellence in care that you deserve.
Intermountain Health offers clinics in the following locations:
There are more than 300 primary care doctors in Intermountain Health’s clinics. In addition, we have many specialists and partnering hospitals that work with us to give our patients the best access to consultations and treatment.
4. Review Your Insurance Coverage
It helps to know ahead of time what health plans your primary doctor accepts. Intermountain Health has a detailed list of insurance plans, as well as workers compensation, Medicare, and Medicare Advantage plans, that our clinics accept. You can always give the clinic a call to ask if your coverage includes primary care visits and other services your doctor may provide.
At the same time, you can inquire about the office procedures of your new primary care physician. For example:
- How can I request an appointment?
- Can I book a telehealth visit and meet with a doctor virtually?
- Do they offer mobile check-in and online patient forms?
- Do they offer online payment options?
- How will I learn about test results?
- How do I get prescription refills?
- Who do I call for follow-up questions?
- Who is available for after-hours inquiries?
These factors are all part of your overall healthcare experience and are important to know when you choose a new family doctor.
5. Ask About Integrated Care
Your family doctor is central to your healthcare experience. That experience is made even better if the doctor is connected to a practice that has a commitment to integrated care. Patients seen at our myGeneration Clinics have access to:
- Mental health integration
- Complex care management and social worker services
- High-risk conditions and disease management
- Preventive care
You may not need full-service care right away. But the benefit of finding a primary care doctor is developing a relationship with a practice that can meet your health needs now and in the future.
6. Schedule an In-Person Meeting
Once you have done your research, listened to recommendations, and think the provider would be a good fit—it’s time to meet them in person. Then it comes down to how you feel during that initial meeting. Ask yourself if you are comfortable to discuss challenging issues with the doctor. If you are not, you can revisit the find a provider tool and try again. At the end of the day, it’s about finding the right match.
A primary care physician is a key part of your healthcare team, no matter your age or phase of life. Take the time to review your options before choosing the right family doctor for you. Hopefully, once you start that relationship, it will last a lifetime.