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How to Find a Primary Care Doctor

I ask my patients how they found me, and they often say it was through LinkedIn or word of mouth. I found my own primary care doctor by word of mouth. To find a primary care doctor, it’s helpful to ask around, but it’s also necessary to find someone you connect with.

Your Particular Health Needs

Are you mostly worried about a particular health condition now, or is your goal preventing long-term chronic disease? If it’s obesity, diabetes, or hypertension, most primary care doctors can likely manage those conditions well with medications.

If you need a more individualized approach- a more concierge style of attention- it’s necessary to look at non-traditional primary care doctors. These physicians often don’t take health insurance since managing someone’s health in just 7-10 minutes is difficult.

Prevention vs. Treatment

Preventing disease is a tough proposition. Your primary care physician has to have the right insight into your particular risk factors and design a plan you can stick with. That takes a lot of one-on-one work.

Choosing a primary care doctor who can help you develop a prevention strategy requires insight into your willingness to take action to prevent a particular disease.

As Dr. Peter Attia outlines in his book Outlive, the four most common chronic diseases and killers are Diabetes, Heart Disease, Dementia, and Cancer. Preventing these requires a detailed assessment and ongoing attention to changing one’s particular risk factors.

Traditional Primary Care vs. Modern Medicine

In traditional primary care, the physician diagnoses a patient with a particular medical condition and then sets out to treat it. If you have high blood pressure, they will prescribe you antihypertensives. Diabetes, you get antidiabetic medications.

They also do some routine preventative work such as mammograms and cholesterol testing. But anything beyond USPSTF recommendations is often not covered by your insurance, sometimes for good reason; not all screening tests are of value if they are done without considering the patient’s particular risk factors.

Modern medicine is different because we now know that prevention trumps all interventions. If I can prevent plaque buildup in a patient, then the chance of their suffering a heart attack is near zero. If their blood sugar is perfect, diabetes is unlikely. Without much inflammation in the body and adequate exercise, dementia becomes much less likely.

Time Commitment to Your Health

This modern medicine comes at a cost in terms of time, money, and mental bandwidth. How much time can you put into preventing a particular disease? For example, if you are at high risk of developing dementia, what are you willing to do, and how much money can you spend on preventative strategies to have a meaningful impact on your risk?

Many patients at DNH will have to start or change their exercise routines. Diets often have to be adjusted — fortunately, slowly. They may have to start meditation, take medications, or undergo specific testing. All of this can be taxing.

Check Online Reviews

To find a primary care doctor, an online search is a good place to start. Perhaps you can find someone close to you if you prefer to be seen in person. A virtual primary care doctor has its own advantages as long as you’re comfortable with that style of medicine.

Google Reviews are a good place to start, but you might also find some information on forums and sites like Reddit.

Talk to The Doctor

When you hire a plumber, you want to talk to them to get a feel for their style and see if they communicate well. Before choosing a primary care doctor, it’s necessary to do the same. Sure, most of us have the same training, but each of us has their own style.

Is that doctor patient? Do they listen? Can you understand their accent? Do they let you talk? Do they ask good questions?

Important Traits to Consider

1. Knowledgeable

Knowledge is subjective. A good primary care doctor can’t just know about mainstream Western medicine. Sure, that’s considered knowledgeable, but plenty of patients may also benefit from other modalities.

Their thirst for knowledge and passion to learn is worth asking about. Where do they source their information, and what topics interest them the most?

2. Compassionate

Compassion is caring enough about the other person to learn more. It’s not taking things personally, even if you aren’t at your best.

If it’s my way or the highway, you may not last long with that doc. Choose a PCP who can make you feel cared for and is comfortable showing their healthy emotions.

3. Listens

A good primary care doctor will listen actively. This requires asking good questions and also getting the patient to open up. If you leave feeling heard, there’s a good chance your doctor is a good listener.

4. Creative

Health isn’t a clear-cut issue. It’s different for each and every person. You can’t find the answer to your health question in a textbook; otherwise, you wouldn’t need a good PCP.

Your primary care physician can demonstrate creativity by helping you consider options you didn’t know existed. They can approach a health problem from multiple angles and offer various treatment options.

5. Resourceful

What if a certain mediation isn’t available? What if you are traveling overseas? Maybe you can’t afford a certain surgery, or the ideal specialist isn’t able to take your case. A resourceful and creative primary care doctor can help you navigate the entire healthcare system.

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