Whether you’ve recently moved to a new town or city, are looking for a family doctor for the first time, or are considering switching, there are some questions you must ask yourself about what you require in a doctor. Of course, seeking recommendations from family, friends, and coworkers is a good start, you’ll also want to do your own research to make sure that you can form a meaningful patient/client relationship with your new doctor.
Family Doctors in Birmingham, AL offer a number of different services, so narrowing down your requirements before making that first appointment means that there will be less room for disappointment down the road.
What do you require?
Consider what kind of physician your family requires. Do you have young children that are going to need pediatric care, older family members who may need a geriatric physician, or would you like someone who is trained as a complete family unit doctor that can offer continuous care.
If you’re single, young, and healthy, the above may not be considerations for you. Those with an entire family unit may need all of the above, and sometimes specialized care.
- Does this doctor have any knowledge of specialized diseases that you or a family member may have?
- Does the doctor openly work with specialists to ensure the most comprehensive care?
Family medicine is an incredibly versatile specialty because they have the flexibility to tailor their services to the needs of their patients. Common clinical procedures performed by doctors include skin biopsies (74%), X-rays (26%), and musculoskeletal injections (63%).
It’s common practice for family physicians to undergo a residency in a hospital environment to enhance their medical knowledge base. Without these residency hours, family physicians would not be board certified by the American Academy of Family Physicians. The AAFP’s consensus survey found that 58% of practicing member physicians were trained in a Community-based and Medical School affiliated facility.
Finally, an important consideration when choosing your new family doctor in Birmingham, AL is the location.
- Is it easy to get there?
- Are there other amenities nearby?
- Is there ample parking available to ensure that you’ll have a spot?
Understanding what a typical visit will look like in the time it takes to get there and get around is an important consideration in making your decision.
Do Your Research
Once you’ve narrowed down your list, you may want to drive by the office itself or do more research about the office and physician. Their website or online reviews may glean some insight into the quality of care provided at the clinic.
- Does the Physician own their clinic?
An AMA survey says that a strong 40% of family medicine practitioners are the sole owners of their practice, meaning that they will be more committed to your care.
- How many patients do they see per week?
American Association of Family Physicians members see on average of 87 patients per week, which calculates to about two an hour if the doctor works a seven hour, five-day workweek. This means that you can expect an approximate 30 minutes of undivided attention with your family doctor.
You can check up on doctors via Consumer Reports resources that will let you know whether the doctor in question has any disciplinary actions against them. From Consumer Reports, you can also find information on certifications and training they have.
Oftentimes insurance companies have a directory of doctors in your network. Outside of this network, your insurance company may not cover the costs of your visits. Check their online list, but also verify that they haven’t dropped your specific plan.
- Are you part of my insurance network?
- What are my co-pays?
- Will the office process insurance claims, or will I have to pay up front?
If you’re also in the process of purchasing insurance or choosing a plan, Consumer Reports has a thorough insurance rankings report.
Call the office
There will probably be a couple frontrunners in your search for a family doctor once you’ve completed the above steps, but it’s entirely likely that you’ll have more questions. At this point, directly reach out to the clinic for a quick chat with reception. (Keep in mind it’s a busy office and the receptionist can’t be on the phone all day, but they shouldn’t rush you.)
Ask things like:
- Where are routine X-Rays and lab tests performed? If they’re not in-office, is it nearby?
- What hospital does the doctor use? Understand the relationship between their office and any referring offices
- How long does it usually take between call and an appointment?
- Is it possible to be seen on the same day?
Trying to get an idea of what the appointment situation is will save you headaches down the road. Take into consideration the friendliness of the receptionist. Their attitude will generally give you an idea of the atmosphere in the office.
One consideration that could affect the level of information sharing between you and your doctor’s office is their adoption of new technology for medical records. According to Health IT 48% of patients used a variety of media to interact with their healthcare provider.
- Can I access my medical records online?
- Can I SMS or e-mail my doctor for results?
This is the future of healthcare provision and offices who are on top of this trend means that you’ll have easier access to your medical records.
What should you ask the doctor?
If you still haven’t been able to decide on a doctor, your best course of action is to make an appointment to meet with them and discuss your concerns. It’s not usual for family physicians to have a consultation appointment, but a co-pay or appointment fee is a small price to pay for piece of mind.
If you’re starting your search for a family doctor in Birmingham, AL, Quick Care Family Medicine has fully licensed and certified physicians that are available to take care of your entire family. Make an appointment today to see if we’re the right fit for you.