Here are 5 things you need to know before choosing a primary care physician

Finding a primary care physician (PCP) is a personal process.

Whether you’re moving to a new area or want to switch care, you want a PCP who understands your needs and those of your family. Everyone wants an honest, long-term relationship with their doctor. How do you find one who meets these needs? What do you need to know before you make the decision?

Find a UPMC primary care physician by visiting the UPMC Primary Care website or by calling 1-855-676-UPMCPCP.


How to find the right primary care doctor


1. Does the Doctor Specialize in Areas that Meet Your Needs?

Many PCPs specialize in one of three areas. Determine what you’re looking for in a PCP.

  • Family Practice: A family practitioner cares for people of all ages and sexes, and addresses a wide variety of medical problems. Family practitioners have a “concentration of caring for families,” said Kevin M. Wong, MD, Westmoreland Family Medicine – UPMC. They provide both “preventative and acute care.”
  • Internal Medicine: Internists care for adults and focus on the prevention and treatment of diseases,
  • Pediatrics: Pediatricians care for children from infancy to adolescence, usually focusing on general well-being.

2. How Far Will You Travel to a Doctor?

There are many reasons why you may need a doctor whose office is close to your home. If you’re working, you may not have the time to travel long distances to meet your PCP. Take your work schedule, your family’s schedule, and the commute into consideration. Ask yourself if you’d be willing to travel 20 or 50 miles.

3. What Doctors Does Your Hospital Recommend?

Hospitals may have referral services that can help narrow down your search by providing an online database of doctors. Check out hospital websites where you can search for a PCP using criteria such as experience, gender, language, specialty, and distance.

4. Who Cares for Your Family and Friends?

Relatives and friends often can provide a more thorough and personal account than what you may find online. They can provide an “inside scoop” about a PCP’s bedside manner, the office hours, the helpfulness of the staff, and more. Listen to personal referrals and ask yourself if the care sounds like the type you’re looking for.

Ask your family and friends:

  • Does your doctor spend enough time with you?
  • Does he or she listen to your concerns?
  • Does your doctor explain concepts in a way that makes sense?
  • Is your doctor respectful and sensitive?
  • Are you and your family satisfied with your care?

It’s also important to ask about the office’s logistics.

“How hard was it to get an appointment? How long was your wait to get one?” Dr. Wong said. “Was your office time well spent? Can you communicate with your doctor electronically?” All these factor into how well the office may fit your expectations.

5. What Was Your First Impression of the Doctor?

First impressions go a long way. If you have a good first meeting, you feel comfortable with the doctor, and you like the office and staff, the PCP might be a good fit for you. Choose a doctor who is caring and competent. Not only should he or she have qualifications and certifications, but also should be someone who you can be open and honest with about your medical concerns.

Choosing a PCP can be difficult. It’s important to choose one that you feel comfortable with and who meets your needs. Don’t rush the process because your PCP can be with you for the long run.

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“You must be able to feel totally comfortable and communicate freely with your PCP,” says Dr. Wong. “Your health may depend on it!”

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