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Here’s useful info and a checklist to help you with this important decision

Did you know that Americans spend more time figuring out what new car to buy than they do choosing a doctor? That was one of the findings of recent research conducted by Harris Interactive, which involved more than 7,600 U.S. adults in 27 metropolitan areas.

Everyone should have a primary care physician (PCP), experts say, so don’t underestimate the importance of this decision. After all, your PCP is your main healthcare provider for nonemergencies. He or she teaches healthy lifestyle choices, provides counseling and preventive care, treats common medical conditions, assesses the urgency of your medical problems and, when necessary, makes referrals to specialists.  

Primary care providers include a variety of practitioners, such as:
Family practitioners—treat kids and adults of all ages; practice may include obstetrics and minor surgery.
Pediatricians—treat kids of varied ages, from newborns to adolescents.
Internists—treat adults of all ages for a wide range of medical problems.
OB-GYNs—often are a PCP for women, especially those of childbearing age.
Nurse practitioners and physician assistants—in some practices, may be your key contact.

When you’re choosing a PCP, experts advise you to do your homework and find someone who matches your preferences (training, bedside manner, gender, age, etc.). Other things to consider: 
✓    Does the doctor belong to your health insurance plan?
✓    Is the practice conveniently located with ample parking? 
✓    Which hospital(s) does the doctor use? Are you comfortable with the possibility of being treated there if the need arises? 
✓    Where are routine lab tests and X-rays conducted (in the office or at an outside facility)? 
✓    How long do you have to wait for an appointment after you call? If you have an urgent need, can you be seen on the same day? 
✓    Does a doctor or nurse return your call in a timely manner when you have a question about your care? 
✓    Who covers for the doctor when he/she is away? Where/whom do you call about a problem after hours? 
✓    Does the physician prefer to manage most of your care or does he/she frequently refer patients to specialists? 

For help finding a Brown & Toland primary care physician, visit

Sources: Medline Plus, Mayo Clinic, WebMD, Everyday Health