Primary Care - Questions and Answers For You and Your Doctor

In 2003, 906 million visits were made to doctors’ offices in the United States, and primary care physicians (PCPs) received almost a quarter of those visits. It’s important to establish a relationship with a PCP, who helps you make medical decisions and oversees the care you get from other more specialized physicians. Here are some questions and answers that can help you select a PCP who understands your particular needs:

What information should I find out about the doctor?

It may help to ask the doctor's office these questions:

  • At which hospitals does the doctor have privileges?
  • How long does it take to get in to see the doctor for a routine visit and for urgently needed care?
  • Who covers for the doctor when she is out of town?
  • Is the doctor board certified? (This means she has had training after medical school and has passed an exam certifying her as a specialist in her field.)
  • Does the doctor have any particular medical interests or specialties, such as treatment of diabetes or allergies?
  • How does the doctor prefer to communicate with patients? Through his/her nurse? Email? In-office appointments, only?

What personal qualities should I look for in a doctor?

It's best to find a doctor who listens carefully to your concerns, explains things clearly and fully, shows respect for you, and anticipates your health problems. The doctor also should allow you to ask questions.


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