Getting the Right Care from the Right Doctor

Your health is important. Everything you love about your life is made possible by your own ability to enjoy it: your passion for hiking or bicycling is made possible by your healthy body and muscles, your love of art or movies depends on your eyes, and so on.

So in your day-to-day life, your health needs to be a priority. That means that you need to eat healthy and get the right amount of exercise. It means that you need to get quality sleep, and it means that you should avoid unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

And it also means that you need to rely on the experts. There’s a lot that you can and should do to keep yourself healthy, but full body health is not something you’re equipped to manage on your own. You need a doctor – perhaps several doctors – in your corner. But how do you find the right ones?

Your primary care physician: your first line of defense

There are all sorts of doctors with all sorts of specialties out there. But it’s not your job to head to every different kind of doctor all of the time. Your main focus should be heading to a general doctor at least once a year for a check-up.

The doctor you’ll go to for your check-up is your primary care physician. Your primary care physician is a generalist who meets with you regularly – once a year is a good start, but rely on your primary care provider for guidance on how often to schedule a visit.

Your primary care provider can identify issues that may require the attention of a specialist, and he or she can refer you to such specialists. Your primary care provider is also the person you should ask directly about more specialized care, including mental healthcare.

Finding the right primary care physician

So how do you get a primary care physician? Your best bet is to look specifically for a primary care physician who accepts your insurance. Check-ups can be pricey without insurance, so it pays to choose a professional who is “in your network.” Many insurance providers provide a list of primary care physicians on their websites. Some offer searchable databases, and some also assign primary care providers automatically to new customers.

Your relationship with your primary care provider is an important one, so don’t make this decision too casually. Ask friends and family for recommendations, and check out reviews of doctors on reputable review websites (you want to pay special attention to sites that focus specifically on medical reviews). And remember, you can always change your primary care provider later on. You aren’t stuck with them forever if you decide you’d rather have someone different.

Finding and choosing specialists

Once you have your primary care provider, you can speak with them about how to choose a specialist. Don’t forget that your costs will be lower if you stick with providers who accept your insurance. And you may also want to call up your insurance company or review the paperwork they gave you in order to figure out if you should get a written referral from your doctor. Some insurance providers require referrals before they are willing to help pay for your treatment.

Here, again, it makes sense to ask for recommendations from friends and family members and to look at doctor reviews online. Combined with the advice of your primary care physician and restrictions based on your insurance needs, you should be able to find the right doctor to see at the right time.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.