There are two main types of doctors: primary care providers (PCPs) and specialists. PCPs provide your regular check-ups and are often who to visit first when you become concerned about a symptom or problem. Specialists handle particular issues that require specific knowledge and training.
It is helpful to have a PCP who:
- You trust
- Knows your medical history
- Ensures you receive routine preventive care, including screenings and healthy lifestyle counseling
- Explains your treatment options in clear language
- Recommends and coordinates your care from specialists
- Keeps track of your medications, including ones prescribed by other providers
- Helps you make informed decisions
- Helps you feel comfortable and heard
You may also want specialists who have some or all of the above attributes.
Below is a list of questions you can ask to help find the right provider.
- Does the doctor take my insurance (participating provider for Original Medicare, or in-network for Medicare Advantage)?
- Is the doctor taking new patients?
- Is it easy to get an appointment?
- Is the doctor board-certified? If yes, in what field?
- What percent of the doctor’s patients are older or have disabilities?
- Should I consider seeing a doctor specially trained to manage the health needs of older adults (geriatrician)? Or a different kind of specialist who suits my particular needs? Keep in mind that general care physicians and internists who work regularly with older patients or patients with disabilities can also make good PCPs.
- Does the doctor have a relationship with hospitals and other facilities I prefer?
- Does the doctor explain things clearly?
- Does the doctor listen to my concerns?
- Is the doctor’s office easy to get to?
- Are the doctor’s office hours convenient for me?
- Is the doctor willing to speak to my caregiver about my care?
- Does the doctor make house calls?
- Is the doctor available after hours or on weekends?
- Are there doctors available who speak my native language (if not English)?
Make sure to do your research. Ask for referrals to doctors where possible. You may also want to see if you can speak briefly to the doctor before requesting a formal appointment.