Consider location, location, location
It might not seem like a big deal to travel 45 minutes to find a doctor you can trust—but it might when you’re really sick and can barely muster energy to get out of bed. “Location matters because of convenience, and you never want to underestimate convenience,” says Paula Muto, MD, CEO and founder of UBERDOC. “When you need a doctor, you don’t want to travel far, especially if you need to schedule a visit more than once year.” One study from the University of Michigan Medical School found that patients had a greater disease burden as their distance from their primary care physician increased.
Check the type of doctor
Even if you can tell the difference between a DO and an MD, you might not know the difference between family medicine and internal medicine. “The differences in training fosters unique skill sets between the two specialties that patients can consider when choosing a primary care doctor,” says Lindsay Nakaishi, MD, MPH, chief resident at the UPMC Shadyside Family Health Center. “Family medicine practitioners care for patients of all ages from birth to death, which can include prenatal, obstetric, gynecologic, pediatric, adult, and geriatric care. Internal medicine providers typically offer care for adults starting at 18 years old, and may refer out to an OBGYN provider for women’s healthcare needs.” Family practitioners may focus on disease prevention, but internal medicine doctors often have a subspecialty—so if you have a particular health problem, seek out one who knows your issue. Also, although you might refer to your primary care physician as a GP (general practitioner), that’s not an actual specialty requiring a board certification.