If you’re new to the Connecticut area or have found yourself in need of a new primary care physician, finding the right healthcare provider can be confusing, difficult and even a daunting task. Your primary care physician (PCP) will be your principal healthcare provider for years to come so taking some time to evaluate the choices is worthwhile, although not always straightforward.
Here are 8 tips to help make the process of finding a Connecticut primary care physician a little easier:
1.Know the Different Types of Primary Care Physicians
The main primary care specialties are family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics (in some instances, a patient may use another type of specialist as their primary care provider.) When looking for a primary care physician, it’s important to know the distinctions between these specialties, specifically a family medicine doctor and an internist. While these disciplines have much in common, there is some crucial divergence when it comes to patient population, setting and scope of practice that can impact your provider selection. You can read more about the differences between these two specialties in our previous blog article. Once you decide on which type of provider is right for you and/or your family, you can narrow your search to that specialty.
2. Find Out If They Are Taking New Patients
Before you complete a ton of research and settle on a primary care physician that appears to meet your criteria, you should first find out if they are taking new patients. This important first step can save you a significant amount of time and disappointment. In order to provide patients with excellent care, doctors cannot take on an unlimited number of patients. By visiting a physician or practice’s website or calling their office, you can easily find out if a doctor’s practice is full just by asking if they are accepting new patients.
3. Check if the Doctor is In-Network with Your Insurance
In-network means your healthcare provider has contracted with your insurance company to accept negotiated discounted rates. Out of network providers have not agreed to discounted rates. If paying discounted rates instead of higher, out-of-network fees is important to you, you’ll likely want to see a primary care doctor within your network since most people see their PCP more than any other healthcare provider.
Your insurance provider should offer a searchable database of the doctors, specialists and health care facilities that make up your provider network. If you’re not able to go online or are unable to find a searchable database, you can always call the physician’s office directly and ask.
4. Consider the Doctor’s Experience
Many patients are dealing with chronic or specific health concerns. For example, if you are a diabetic, then a family medicine doctor who completed an additional residency in endocrinology may be your ideal primary care physician. Or if you are searching for a primary care doctor for an elderly parent, you may consider a physician that provides home visits or patient care onsite at assisted living facilities. Another consideration for women is whether or not the physician can support women’s health exams and treat gynecologic conditions, which can be an added benefit if you prefer to see one doctor for your comprehensive health care.
5. Look at Patient Reviews
If you have found a potential PCP, the next step in helping you narrow down your choice is taking a look at what other patients have to say about their experiences with the physician and/or the practice. There are numerous online medical sites that collect and publish reviews for Connecticut-based doctors, such as Vitals and Healthgrades. These reviews will give you more personal insights into the physician’s bedside manner, responsiveness, level of care and other traits that may be important to you in selecting your provider. To develop your own opinion of the practice and to see if it is a good fit for your needs, most practices will schedule an initial visit to establish care.
6. Check Location(s) of Appointments
Whether it’s for sick or wellness visits, it is not at all unusual to see your primary care physician several times a year, making a convenient location an important factor in your selection. You may want to call the physician’s office to clarify where patients are seen, and on which days, as sometimes physicians can hold office hours between multiple locations.
PACT offers you a searchable database of Connecticut physicians by location.
7. Confirm Board Certification
Some patients desire a primary care physician who is board-certified, but what does this mean? Every practicing physician completes a residency after graduating from medical school. This training period lasts around three to six years and is an opportunity for a new physician to specialize in an area of medicine. After completion of a residency, a doctor can practice medicine in that specialty, but board certification goes further.
To become board-certified, a doctor must pass intense examinations administered by their specialty board. These exams test competency in a specialty and are notoriously rigorous. A board-certified specialist is not necessarily “better” than a physician without board certification, but board-certified doctors have objectively demonstrated comprehensive knowledge in their field. If you are looking for a board-certified primary care doctor in Connecticut, you should know that PACT mandates physicians to possess board certification.
8. Do They Provide Coordinated Care
Most people initially consider their PCP as the main point of contact for preventive care and treatment of common medical conditions. But if you intend to stay with your primary care doctor for an extended amount of time, it may also be important to you to know if they work with a network of medical specialists to which they could refer you when necessary. While this may not be an immediate consideration when addressing your current medical needs, this could become important as you age. When talking with your potential PCP, ask them about their participation in coordinated care if and when the need arises.