Beautiful female doctor in white medical coat is testing patient's blood pressure and smiling while sitting in office

Though we all try our best to avoid it, there inevitably comes a time when our bodies hit a brick wall in the form of a cold, infection, or flu. When that time comes, the first step is getting to the doctor to jump right on the road to recovery. But what if you don’t have a primary doctor set up yet?

Of course, it may be necessary to visit an urgent care facility or emergency room , but why not then take the steps to set up a primary care physician? That way when you’re sick in the future, you can connect with someone who knows you and your medical history (and  more affordable when it comes to your co-pays, too).

It may seem like an overwhelming task to establish your “home base” when it comes to doctors’ offices, but with these tips in mind, you’ll be prepared with everything you need to make the decision that’s right for you.



First things first — insurance. Most insurance companies offer different co-pay levels depending on whether the doctor you visit is in or out of network. To ensure you’re keeping your costs low and going with a doctor your insurance recommends, visit your insurance website to research doctors in the network. Already found a doctor that you’re really interested in? Just give them a call before scheduling the visit to see if they are in your network. You’ll need to be prepared with your insurance provider information as well as your plan number, so have that handy!



It seems like common sense to consider a doctor’s location before setting them as your primary doctor, but the truth is that many don’t truly think about it — especially if they’re already sick by the time they’re looking for a home base.

Take those extra minutes to really think about the location. Do you want a doctor close to your home, to your place of employment, or somewhere in-between? Is the traffic a nightmare near that area of town? Is your pharmacy of choice nearby? Taking all of these questions into consideration will help you think through your location preferences before making an appointment.


Reviews and Referrals

Just like when you’re deciding on a new restaurant to try, it’s important to take note of what others are saying about the doctors you’re considering. If you have friends or family in the area, ask them if they’ve heard of the doctor. Social media is another great resource to solicit opinions from people you trust in your life.

If you can’t find a personal referral, read the reviews on your insurance portal or other review websites. Take a look at the ratings the doctor has received and note any service-related reviews that may help you decide.




Once you’ve selected a doctor, keeping insurance, location, and reviews in mind, it’s time to make the first appointment. Don’t forget that just because you visit once doesn’t mean you can’t continue to look. Hopefully you’ll feel comfortable with your first choice, but it’s certainly okay to switch offices if the first one just isn’t for you.

Keep the environment in mind when making your decision. Is the office clean? Is the equipment up to date? Do you feel comfortable? You will likely be in this office during times when you’re not feeling well, which means you want to ensure you feel as relaxed and safe as possible.



Another major factor to consider when making your final decision is the service you experience during your visit. Consider how the appointment was booked, how communication occurred between the booking and the appointment time, and how you were greeted when you arrived. Though the comfort and service your doctor provides is important, it’s also necessary to have great service from the office personnel and support staff too. Know what you expect from a health provider and don’t be afraid to keep looking if you don’t find it the first time.




When all is said and done, be sure to keep the communication after the appointment in mind too.  Whether your preference is to be left alone or you expect to have a detailed follow-up with your doctor, know that going in and hold your doctor to those standards. Follow-up may be one of the factors you can control by simply having that conversation with your provider, but it’s nice to see how their process works right from the start.


Choosing a primary doctor can be overwhelming, especially if you’re under the weather, but with a few tips and help from those around you, it can be done in a jiff.

Are there important factors you keep in mind when selecting a health care provider that we forgot to list here? Shout out your recommendations in the comments below.

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