Finding a family doctor can save time and money since the adults, children, and babies in your family can all make appointments at one location. Since they'll be working closely with your whole family, you can also develop a stronger relationship with the family practitioner's office.
Search for Physicians
Start your selection process by searching for offices with family practitioners.
Ask Family for Referrals
The most obvious place to start your search for a family doctor is with your own family. Check with extended family members who live in your area to see where they go for primary care. If they see a family doctor, that physician could be a good fit for you, too, since she'll already have some loose family history.
Ask for Doctor and Hospital Referrals
If you or any of your children already see a specialist, ask them for recommendations. You can also check in with hospital nurses or the receptionist after you've given birth for referrals. Try to ask pointed questions that go beyond their standard list of local offices by saying things such as, "Who did your kids see?"
Perform an Online Search
When you are new to an area and don't know anyone to ask for a personal referral, you can do a quick online search. Make sure you use keywords such as "family doctor" or "family physician" so you get the most relevant results. Many of these doctors will have those keywords in the name of their practice. Visit review websites, such as Healthgrades or Vitals to see what others are saying about the physician.
Check Out the Office and Practice
Now that you've got a list of doctors to consider, look further into their practices to see if they'll be a good fit for your family.
Find Out What Insurance They Accept
You should be able to call any physician's office and ask the receptionist what insurance plans they accept.
- Consult your insurance company's printed or online materials to see if a specific doctor is considered "in-network," which will be more cost effective for you.
- If members of your family have different insurance companies, make sure all are accepted at the same office.
Seek a Convenient Location
If you have a large family, you'll want to pick an office that's near your home or the kids' school in case of sudden illness and to minimize travel time. Other factors to consider about location include:
- Is it on a busy main road that could be unsafe for small children?
- Are there other places you frequently visit nearby, like a grocery store or salon, so you can run multiple errands in one trip?
- Are there places to eat nearby in case you need to grab a quick lunch or dinner after appointments?
- Is there good access to parking?
Ask About Specialty Areas of Care
Although the family doctor is trained for all ages and general care, uncommon medical needs can arise. If you know members of your family have certain chronic illnesses, diseases, or other special health concerns you might want to find a doctor with more training in those areas.
Discover Number of Doctors in the Practice
While it could be convenient for the whole family to see the same doctor, it might save time and enhance individual privacy to see different doctors at the same office. Check to see how many doctors work at the office and if there are enough accepting new patients to cover your whole family.
Evaluate Office Layout and Decor
A family physician's office won't look as wild and fun as a pediatrician's office can, but it's nice to find a practice that will be comfortable for kids and adults.
- Is there a play section?
- Does the decor feel comfortable or sterile?
- Are there rows of seats together that could fit your whole family?
- Do treatment rooms have accessible tables and furniture for people of all sizes?
Make Sure Office Hours Are Convenient
You'll also want to ensure the practice's office hours meet the needs of your family. Check to see if they have early morning, afternoon, and evening appointments available, for instance.
Talk to Doctors and Office Staff
Some doctors and practices allow an introductory visit to make sure it's a good fit for your family. Make an appointment and go in to talk to medical staff to see if you feel comfortable with the doctors and staff in the practice.
Consider Personal Factors
Choosing a doctor depends largely on your personal preferences. Consider the opinions and input of all family members before selecting the office you'll all use.
Think About Gender Preferences
A family physician's office can provide services like women's reproductive health care and annual physicals that require nudity and examination of private areas. If you or anyone in your family prefers a male or female doctor for these types of visits, you'll want to make sure there's a doctor there who fits that preference.
Consider Religious Beliefs
Some family physician's offices are affiliated with specific religions and share their expertise through mission trips around the world. If you have strong religious beliefs or values that could affect your health care, make sure the doctor is aligned with the same beliefs or is willing to keep an open mind.
Caring for Your Family
When family needs come first, choosing a family doctor can make sure all your needs take priority. Research the options and take the time to weigh the pros and cons of each office for each family member before making a decision.