How to Befriend Your Primary Care Physician

befriend doctorYou feel sick, so you schedule a doctor’s appointment. Knowing your health history, your doctor can almost immediately determine whether you need further tests or serious treatment. You exchange pleasantries - your cat is still cute; your doctor’s kids are growing up - and you part ways, promising to stop in if your symptoms get worse.

That’s nice, but this is more realistic:

You feel sick, so you randomly choose a doctor off your insurance’s in-network list. After asking you dozens of questions that hardly pertain to your current condition, the doctor wildly guesses that you are suffering from something minor that will disappear in a few days or weeks. You leave with a prescription but without much consolation about your poor health.

These days, most people don’t try to develop a strong, lasting relationship with their primary care physicians. If you often experience the second scenario, you should know that the first scene isn’t out of reach. Contrary to what you might believe, it doesn’t take any time or money to get to know your doctor; in fact, it could save you significantly in future health care costs. Here’s how you can build a relationship with your physician:

Check Your Network

Before you can understand how to befriend your primary doctor, you need to know how to get a primary doctor. Unless you want to spend thousands of dollars on routine doctor visits for the rest of your life, you must find a doctor in your insurance network. Most likely, your health insurance provider offers a list of in-network physicians on their website; you can also call your insurance provider to find nearby physicians or have them send you an appropriate list. With this list in hand, you can perform online research to rule out different doctors depending on your needs and wants.

Know What You Need

Not all doctors are skilled in all areas of medicine. Though primary care physicians are as close as it gets to jacks-of-all-trades, some have more experience with certain health issues than others. In fact, there are three different types of primary care physician:

  • Family practice doctors, who are qualified to tend to all age groups, from newborns to the elderly. Some family practitioners also address specialized health needs, such as women’s health and sports medicine.
  • Internal medicine doctors, who almost exclusively treat adults. Internists are trained in preventing, diagnosing, and managing chronic conditions.
  • General practice doctors, who are almost identical to family practitioners — except in their qualifications. While a family practitioner has a medical doctorate and three years of post-grad education in family medicine, a general practitioner usually has a doctorate of osteopathy.

Before you contact any doctors’ offices, you should collect your medical records and understand your health history. Then, you can identify key areas of care that matter to you and contact a physician who has the qualifications you need.

Know What You Want

Just as important as their qualifications, a doctor’s personality must mesh with yours if you want to develop a lasting relationship. However, the personality traits you might look for in a friend aren’t necessarily the same ones you should seek out in a physician. For example, if you are introverted and prefer to be around introverts, it is fine to prefer a doctor who isn’t necessarily gregarious, but your doctor should still be decisive and clear in their instructions. No matter what personality you seek, you should always want a physician who is:

  • Compassionate
  • Professional
  • Hard-working
  • Knowledgeable

These traits together ensure that you receive top-quality care.

Put Yourself Out There

Once you have selected a physician who fits your needs and wants, it is up to you to cultivate a beneficial relationship with them. Doctors prefer patients who are upfront and honest about their health issues and concerns. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed about your experiences, especially when your health is at stake. The more you reveal about yourself, the better your doctor will be at treating you quickly and safely.

If you struggle to open up to new people, you might consider bringing a close friend or family member to your appointment. Not only are other people more apt to ask potentially embarrassing questions (which in the doctor’s office tend to be beneficial), but your loved ones might also recognize off-putting or agreeable behaviors from your physician that you overlooked.Eventually, you should be able to establish a rapport with your physician and enjoy that fantasy appointment of everyone’s dreams.