When you choose a primary care doctor for yourself or a loved one, make sure to choose a doctor you can trust. A primary care doctor can:
- Help you stay healthy by recommending preventive services, like screening tests and shots
- Treat many health problems — including physical and mental health issues
- Refer you to a specialist when you need more help with a specific health issue
When you and your doctor work together as a team, you’ll get better health care. Look for a doctor who:
- Treats you with respect
- Listens to your opinions and concerns
- Encourages you to ask questions
- Explains things in ways you understand
Try the following tips to find a doctor who’s right for you.
Ask for recommendations from people you know.
Getting a reference from someone you know and trust is a great way to find a doctor.
- Ask friends, family members, neighbors, or coworkers if they have a doctor they like.
- If you are looking for a new doctor because yours is retiring or moving, ask your current doctor for a recommendation.
Check with your insurance company.
If you have health insurance, you may need to choose from a list of doctors in your plan's network (doctors that take your insurance plan). Some insurance plans may let you choose a doctor outside the network if you pay more of the cost.
- Call your insurance company and ask for a list of doctors near you who take your insurance plan – or use the insurance company’s website to search for a doctor.
- Once you've checked with your insurance company, call the doctor’s office, too. Ask them to confirm that they take your specific health insurance plan.
If you don’t have health insurance, you’ll have to pay for health care out of pocket (on your own). This can be very expensive. For help finding insurance, visit HealthCare.gov.
Learn more about your top choices.
Make a list of the doctors you're interested in. Be sure to think about how easy or difficult it will be to travel to an appointment.
Call their offices to learn more about them. The answers to the following questions may help you make the best decision.
Questions about the doctor:
- Is the doctor taking new patients?
- Is the doctor part of a group practice? If so, who are the other doctors that might sometimes see or help treat you?
- Who will see you if your doctor isn’t available?
- Which hospital does the doctor use?
- If you have a medical condition, does the doctor have experience treating it?
- Does the doctor have special training or certifications?
Questions about the office:
- Do they offer evening or weekend appointments?
- What is the cancellation policy?
- How long will it take to get an appointment?
- How long do appointments usually last?
- Can you get lab work and x-rays done in the office?
- If you're more comfortable speaking in a language besides English, is there a doctor or nurse who speaks that language?
Think about your experience after the first visit.
Did the doctor and office staff...
- Make you feel comfortable during your appointment?
- Explain things in a way that was easy to understand?
- Listen carefully to you?
- Show respect for what you had to say?
- Know important information about your medical history?
- Spend enough time with you?
- Give you a chance to ask questions?
If you answer “no” to any of these questions, you may want to keep looking.
Content last updated October 15, 2020
This content on choosing a doctor was adapted from materials from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Institutes of Health.
Amanda Borsky, DrPH, MPP
Center for Evidence and Practice Improvement
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality