How to Find a Primary Care Doctor: 8 Tips for Success

By Robynn Lowe
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
October 26, 2022

Key takeaways

  • A primary care provider (PCP) is a healthcare provider who is usually responsible for caring for you and your health over many years. 

  • A PCP generally handles common medical problems, chronic and non-emergency conditions. 

  • Finding a qualified PCP whom you trust is an important step in ensuring that you have access to healthcare when you need it and ongoing preventive care over the course of your life. 

Primary care providers (PCPs) are healthcare providers who work with their patients to manage common medical problems and provide preventive healthcare. They are often medical doctors, also known as M.D.s, but they can also be physician assistants (PAs) or nurse practitioners (NPs). 

Choosing a PCP can feel overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that you have options. Researching your insurance coverage providers and asking friends and family for their recommendations is a good start. Ultimately, knowing the resources available to you when finding a PCP will help you to find someone you trust and feel comfortable sharing your health experiences with.  

The Importance of Having a Primary Care Doctor

Most of the time, a patient’s health does get better when they have a long-term, trusting relationship with their PCP. PCPs can:

  • Provide preventive care and offer advice on healthy lifestyle choices
  • Diagnose and treat common health conditions
  • Make referrals to specialists when needed
  • Assess the urgency of your issue and direct you to the best place for the care you need

Research also shows that primary healthcare helps to prevent illness and death and is associated with a more equitable distribution of health across major population subgroups. 

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How to Find the Right Primary Care Doctor

Finding the right PCP for you can take some time and research, but there are several resources available to help you find the right fit for your healthcare needs. 

Consider your health insurance coverage

Most insurance carriers require that you select a provider directly from their network. In those cases, you can reach out to your insurer for their directory of providers. Keep in mind that some insurance companies may approve outside providers at an additional cost.  

Ask for recommendations from friends and family

Building a relationship with a PCP is very personal, which is why it can be helpful to ask friends and family members for their recommendations for PCPs. If you have an insurance carrier that requires you to choose a provider from their network, ask friends and family members in the same network for their recommendations.  

Check out online reviews

Once you start researching PCPs, you may find several providers that look promising. If you’re having trouble deciding between possible PCPs, you can look up their online reviews on ZocDoc, Healthgrades, and other places. 

Look for a doctor who has experience with your specific condition

Another way to narrow your search is to consider your unique medical needs. If you have a specific medical condition, search for providers experienced in that field. If you have other needs that you’d like to discuss with your PCP, be sure to include those criteria in your search. 

Make sure the doctor is accepting new patients

Not all of the doctors listed online or in the directory of your insurance company will be taking new patients. When reading through provider profiles, be sure to confirm whether or not the provider you’re interested in is currently accepting new patients. If that information is not available online, you can always call their office to confirm it.  

Consider the doctor’s office location and hours

Office location and hours may not be the first thing you think about when searching for a PCP, but finding a provider whose location and availability are convenient will make getting care more accessible when you need it most. These days, nearly all providers provide virtual care when applicable, but having a provider with a convenient office location and hours will come in handy when you need to visit them in-person.

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Look for a doctor who uses electronic health records

Electronic health records (also called EHRs) are a game-changer in the industry. They make it easier for PCPs to provide accurate, up-to-date, and complete information about their patients while also enabling more efficient care. If you need to see a specialist for a certain condition, electronic health records also make sharing information across different doctor’s offices easier.  

Schedule an appointment for a consultation

It’s not always possible to know whether or not a PCP will be the right fit for you simply by reading their profile and reviews. For that reason, it’s a good idea to reach out to the PCP of your choice to schedule an appointment for a consultation. During your initial consultation, here are some things to consider to help you decide whether or not this provider is the right choice for you:

  • Was it easy to schedule the consultation? 
  • Was their staff friendly and helpful?
  • Are their office hours and location convenient (if you visit them in-person)?
  • Did you feel comfortable when speaking with the provider? 
  • Were they respectful?
  • What was the provider’s communication style like?
  • Does this provider focus on disease treatment, preventive care, or both?
  • What is this provider’s approach to patient care?
  • Is the provider available via email or video visits for follow-up questions and care? 

Bottom Line

  • It’s important to find a PCP whom you trust and with whom you can build an ongoing and respectful relationship.

  • Finding the right PCP for you can take some time and patience, but it’s important to remember that you can always switch providers if the one you’ve selected doesn’t turn out to be the right fit. 

How to See a Primary Care Doctor Online

With K Health, you can access virtual primary care and manage your health from home. With board-certified doctors available 24/7, you can schedule appointments when it’s convenient for you, and get the care you need.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between a doctor and a primary care physician?
In general, the word "doctor" refers to any medical professional who is licensed to practice medicine. A medical doctor, also called an M.D., is a person who has graduated from an accredited four-year medical school that meets the standards of the American Association of Medical Colleges and is licensed and certified to practice medicine. Medical doctors can practice a wide array of specialties, including pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, neurology, dermatology, and internal medicine. Primary care physicians are usually internists or family practitioners (though some PCPs can have different specialties) who focus on building relationships with patients over time.
How do I decide which doctor to go to?
Choosing a primary care provider is an important choice that’s unique to every patient. It’s important to choose a provider whom you trust and with whom you feel you can build an ongoing relationship.
What’s the difference between family practice and general practice?
Both family practitioners and general practitioners are types of primary care providers. Family practitioners provide care for patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly. General practitioners most often care for adults.
What questions should I ask a new primary care physician?
There are many questions you can ask a new primary care provider when deciding whether or not they are the right fit for you. These questions can include: “What is your approach to providing patient care?” and “Do you focus on disease treatment, preventive care, or both?”
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Robynn Lowe

Robynn Lowe is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years in the medical field. Robynn received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Florida Atlantic University and has been practicing in rural family medicine since. Robynn is married to her college sweetheart, Raymond and they have three awesome children. When Robynn isn't with patients you can find her shopping, coaching her kids sports teams, or spending time on the water.