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Women’s considerations for choosing a physician

By Anna Edlebeck, MD Internal Medicine Physician | Jul 8, 2014, 10:48 a.m.

It’s been my privilege to practice internal medicine for several years. Much of what I’ve enjoyed is the opportunity to develop ongoing, trusting relationships with my patients. I especially like working with patients who are educated about their bodies and those who come with questions.

In days past, many people went to doctors, listened to their recommendations and didn’t question their approach. Thankfully, this has changed in recent years – with many patients becoming more educated and better advocates for themselves, while many doctors have become better listeners and more open to input from their patients. For me, listening is one of the most important aspects of my role as a caregiver.

A primary care physician (PCP) is your main health care provider in non-emergency situations. Your PCP’s role is to:

•Provide preventive care and teach healthy lifestyle choices. This is one of the most important and gratifying aspects of my practice.

•Identify and treat common medical conditions.

•Assess the urgency of your medical problems and, if needed, refer you to the best place for care.

•Make referrals to medical specialists when necessary.

Most primary care physicians are family practitioners or internal medicine specialists. Some women use an OB/GYN for primary care. Recently, some clinics and physician practices have started using nurse practitioners and physician assistants as primary care providers. These professionals have excellent training in primary care, work closely with your PCP and are often more readily available than a doctor.

If you’re looking for a PCP, you may want to consider many variables:

Ask your family and friends for recommendations of doctors who they trust and with whom they’ve had good relationships. Dentists, pharmacists, optometrists and other health professionals can also be helpful. The local or state association for a specific illness is also a good resource. Wisconsin, for example has a state chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association. Many insurance plans limit provider choices or give financial incentives for selecting from a specific list of providers. Be sure you are clear on your insurance coverage before searching for a PCP.

Several websites are available to help in your search for a PCP. Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, for example, offers video profiles of more than 200 of the health care network’s primary care doctors.

Additional considerations in choosing a PCP include:

• Do you prefer a provider whose communication style is casual or more formal? Would you like a more conservative or aggressive approach to treatment?

• Does the provider invite you to be involved in your care and share enough information so you can participate in making decisions?

• Does the physician view the patient-doctor relationship as a true partnership?

• How much do you want your provider to focus on wellness and prevention – to help you live a healthier lifestyle?

• Is the provider in a setting that offers convenient access to specialists, radiology and lab services, cardiac diagnostic services, cancer care, physical/occupational/speech therapy, urgent care, etc?

• Do you prefer a female physician? Why?

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