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What makes a good primary care physician?

A good primary care physician is someone you trust, who listens to you, has up-to-date knowledge and expertise and is accessible.

A good primary care physician is a doctor who puts the patient first, listens closely and helps partner with the patient to find successful ways to keep him or her healthy.

Primary care physician see patients with a wide range of medical problems. The field of primary care medicine is still evolving, with new recommendations and information coming every day. Knowledge, wisdom, experience, a good heart and other factors create a good primary care physician.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

As a smart patient choosing a smart primary care doctor, you're really looking for a physician with whom you can develop a long and comfortable relationship. Your primary physician will probably be the one you see the most often, and he or she should know your complete medical history. He or she should be able to offer excellent referrals—and have connections with the best specialists in your part of the country. Again, it's critical to feel comfortable with this doctor and to have confidence in him or her. If you don't, you'll probably skip routine preventative-care visits and other appointments that aren't absolutely necessary to keep you getting around on two feet, and that's asking for trouble.

YOU: The Smart Patient: An Insider's Handbook for Getting the Best Treatment

More About this Book

YOU: The Smart Patient: An Insider's Handbook for Getting the Best Treatment

Everyone needs to become a smart patient. In fact, in the worst cases, your life may even depend on it. Number one bestselling authors and doctors Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz have written this indispensable handbook to help everyone to get the best health care possible -- by making everyone into their own medical detective.Witty, playful, at times offbeat, but always authoritative, You: The Smart Patient shows you how to become your own medical sleuth, tracing your medical family tree and wending your way through the pitfalls of any health care situation. Written in conjunction with the health care community's leading oversight group, The Joint Commission, the book shows readers in clear, easy steps how to take control of their own health care and deal with all matters that may come up when facing a medical case: from choosing the right doctor, hospital, and insurance company to navigating prescription drugs, specialists, treatment options, alternative medicine, pain management, or any problem that might arise.Accessible, humorous, and filled with information that you need, You: The Smart Patient is a book for every patient and all those dealing with a loved one's medical issues.
Dr. Darin K. Winn, MD
Family Practitioner

Just like every individual, each doctor has a unique personality. A good primary care physician must be competent, available and caring, but must also have a personality that is compatible with yours.

Dr. Bonnie Lynn Wright, PhD
Geriatrics Nursing Specialist

A 'good' primary care physician practices as part of a multidisciplinary team that is preferably located in the same office or building. They're patient-focused in all aspects of practice and not provider-focused. Prevention and promotion are as important as curative and palliative care. Health or clinical outcomes are the paramount measures for success and they are monitored continuously and improved over time to meet established benchmarks. By striving to achieve these benchmarks, or better, the quality of the health care provided is at the high level that each patient deserves.

A primary care physician has an acknowledged relationship with each patient on their panel. They ensures that every patient has access to the care they need at the time they need it, delivered by the most appropriate provider, every time.

Dr. Samuel M. Warren, MD
Anesthesiologist

Your primary care physician (PCP) should be a good person: thoughtful, smart, trustworthy, all that. Your PCP must also appreciate the values, beliefs and experiences you bring to the table. Your PCP should also be an expert at both "proactive" and “reactive” medicine.

Proactive Medicine:

  • Primary and secondary prevention.  Primary prevention is literally the prevention of disease, and secondary prevention is its early detection through screening, before symptoms start. Your participation in the science-grounded measures for primary and secondary disease prevention will likely earn you more healthy years of life than any other medical intervention you ever receive. Unfortunately, because disease prevention pays less well than sick care, some PCPs are distracted away from prevention. 
  • Innovative with scheduling and communication technologies.

Reactive Medicine:

  • Acute disease management. Your PCP should be able to handle many new and urgent health complaints. Done correctly, this can save you hours (and hours) in an emergency department. Yet, your PCP should also know when you need the emergent care of an ER or hospital.   
  • Expert diagnostician. There is a lot of variation in human biology and illness. It is sometimes hard to find the cause of your symptoms and physical findings. Your PCP needs to be able to do this in a timely, safe and effective way. The correct tests need to be ordered for the correct patients at the correct times. Under-testing can be harmful. Over-testing can be harmful. Misinterpreting tests can be harmful.       
  • Tertiary prevention. Once you have a chronic disease, tertiary prevention is medical care to avoid the complications of that disease. For example, if you have diabetes, there are many things you can do to lower your risk of heart, kidney, eye and nerve complications. Depending on the disease you have, specialists may play a role in your tertiary prevention care. In those cases, your PCP should help you bring the input of specialists back to your master plan for health and well-being.
  • Well-connected. Your PCP should be well-connected with your region’s specialists, and should make intelligent referral choices based entirely on your best interests.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.