Choosing your first family physician can be a challenge for anyone, especially if you're new to a city and aren't familiar with the area. Knowing what to look for from a practice will help you filter your options and settle on the one that suits your needs and the needs of your family. It's not enough anymore that physicians simply see patients on a regular schedule, many working families need more.
A physician's regular practice hours are great for pre-planned appointments, but these may not accommodate all of your medical and health needs. Emergencies happen, and unexpected illnesses don't stick to a schedule, so making sure a family practice has availability outside of their appointment hours, and on short notice, is critical. Not only will this availability save you the trouble of going to an ER for care, it will also be much less costly than emergency room care.
Whether it's a sick clinic, an urgent care, or simply working extra time into their day, look for family practices that can accommodate the unexpected. This additional availability makes it easier to get documentation to your employer of an illness in a work-at-will state. Better still, you can be sure your kids have access to high quality urgent care from a professional you know and trust without an advance appointment.
Not all family physicians are only general practitioners. In fact, many have a broad range of experience with a variety of different disorders, health concerns and chronic conditions. During your search for a regular doctor, make sure you're taking into account any ongoing conditions within your family, and focusing on those practices with experience dealing with those conditions.
Among the areas of focus that many family practices may offer are behavioral health, chronic pain management, and early childhood development. There are a wide array of other areas that a family practice may also have additional experience, so don't hesitate to call up several offices to inquire about a specific condition or need that you, your spouse or your children may be dealing with. Having this level of care can make it more affordable than seeing a certified specialist, and can help you better understand what to expect if a specialist is needed.
Not every general practice is created equally, so don't choose one at random from the phone book. Take your time, and evaluate each one on its merits before settling on one as your regular family health care provider.