10 tips for choosing a primary care doctor

Great care starts with your relationship with your doctor.


Your primary care doctor may be more than just a doctor. Over time, your doctor learns your:

  • Medical history
  • Personality
  • Response to medications
  • Lifestyle
  • Treatment preferences

That knowledge can make a big difference to your health. Studies show that when people’s access to primary care doctors improves, their risk of dying of cancer, heart disease and stroke declines.

What does that all mean? It means that great care starts with a great relationship between you and your doctor. So make sure you choose one that is a good match for you.


Here, we share 10 helpful tips for choosing a primary care doctor.

1) Ask around

The first step to finding a great doctor is to talk to your family and friends about their great doctors. A recommendation from someone you trust is a great way to find a doctor. But remember that each person is different. Just because someone else loves their doctor doesn’t mean that the doctor is right for you.

2) Map it out

Find a doctor located conveniently close to home. You won’t want to travel very far when you’re not feeling well. If your doctor’s office is nearby, you may be more likely to keep appointments for preventive care when you’re healthy.

3) Make sure you have coverage

Gather a list of possible doctors. Then check whether they are covered by your insurance plan.

4) Do a quality check

When you hire someone to do work on your home, chances are you research the quality of their work. So why would you choose a doctor without doing the same? Try using the Physician Compare tool on Medicare.gov.

5) Place a cold call

Call a potential doctor’s office for a first impression. You can determine whether it may be a good fit for you by how you are treated on the phone. And also by how the office staff work to get you an appointment.

6) Ask about logistics

Ask about office practices to get a sense of how the doctor’s office is run. Questions could include:

  • How does the office handle prescription refills?
  • How do they let you know about test results?

7) Keep your needs in mind

Every person has unique health care needs, and those needs change as you age. Ask your doctor about his or her specialties or areas of interest. If you have complex medical needs, you may benefit from seeing a geriatrician. Geriatricians specialize in the care of older patients.

8) Look at the bigger picture

At your first visit, make sure your doctor’s view on patient care lines up with your own. If it does, you may be more likely to follow his or her recommendations. Take this into consideration when deciding whether to stick with a doctor after your first appointment.

9) Avoid culture shock

Every culture has its own customs and ideas about medical care. It’s important to find a doctor who speaks your language, and is also sensitive to your cultural and religious beliefs.

10) Trust your gut

Your primary care doctor is going to be an important advocate for your health. It’s critical that you trust him or her and feel comfortable asking questions.

Reflect on your appointment

The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that after your first appointment, you ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you feel at ease with this doctor?
  • Did you have enough time to ask questions?
  • Did he or she answer all your questions?
  • Did he or she explain things in a way you understood?

You should feel comfortable with your doctor. Trust your instincts – it’s okay to decide someone is not the right fit for you.


  • UnitedHealthcare


The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.