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Choosing a Family Doctor

Posted 1/6/2016 by UHBlog

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Choosing a Family Doctor

Are you on the fence about seeing a family doctor? If you're like a lot of women, you may already see a gynecologist and, perhaps, a couple of internists. Chances are, your children may have their own doctors, too, such as a pediatrician. Does your family really need one more doctor?

It sure does, says family medicine specialist Susan Ratay, DO. According to Dr. Ratay, your interaction with a primary care doctor is one of the most important medical relationships you can have.

“It’s a patient-centered way of practicing medicine that focuses on a person's life cycle – from birth to death,” she says. “The family practice physician is always a good place to start initially and then we can direct you to additional physicians as needed.”

Primary care doctors offer many benefits to busy women and their families, including:

  • Attention to both the "big picture" and the details of your life and health
  • Medical training that addresses all of your general health needs
  • Streamlined use of your local health care system

For example, your family practice doctor is trained to do female exams, blood screenings, pap smears and mammograms. She can also address general female health concerns, such as postmenopausal symptoms, menstrual cramps and breast concerns. Plus, if you have the flu, a bladder infection and/or tennis elbow pain, she can help you through those ailments as well.

“You can see a family doctor for a wide variety of female health concerns, instead of seeing a gynecologist every year for an exam,” Dr. Ratay says. If any concern arises that requires an obstetrics and gynecology specialist's opinion or skills, a family doctor can refer you.

When choosing a family doctor, many factors come into play. Dr. Ratay recommends that before visiting the doctor, your selection process include:

  • Health insurance – Check to make sure the doctor accepts your insurance.
  • Availability – Many providers are booked and even over-booked, so getting an appointment with them may be next to impossible. Shop around for someone who is accepting new patients.
  • Location and parking – Make sure the doctor is located somewhere easily accessible for you. For instance, if you need to take public transportation, make sure you can reach the doctor. If you drive, you want to make sure that there is convenient parking nearby.
  • Expertise and/or board certification – You can find a lot of information about the doctor online, such as where she went to school, her years of experience, interests and achievements. If you want someone with additional skills in a particular field of medicine – such as family medicine, internal medicine or geriatrics – board-certified means that he has extra training and passed special exams to specialize in that area.
  • Access to a group practice – The type of practice could be a factor in the doctor you choose. Doctors in a group have back-ups if they're out of the office. Be sure to find out who the other doctors are and their specialties.
  • Gender – Often, women feel more comfortable with same-sex providers. If this matters to you, this should factor into your consideration.

Once you visit the doctor the first time, you'll have a better sense if she is right for you. The kinds of questions to ask yourself revolve around:

  • Communication – How easy is it to talk to the doctor and her staff? Are the other people in the office helpful and compassionate? Do they listen to concerns?
  • Trust – Do you feel you can trust the doctor and share your personal concerns?
  • Treatment plans – If you have specific health concerns, is the doctor capable of addressing these concerns?

“Visit someone who looks appealing based on your personal preference,” Dr. Ratay says. “See what they have to say and if you feel comfortable with them.”

Susan Ratay, DO is a family medicine specialist at University Hospitals Ashtabula Health Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Ratay or any other University Hospitals doctor online.

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