Choosing your doctor

What type of doctor best suits your needs?

Family Practice - Family practitioners are normally trained in the care of adults and children; a good choice if you want to have the same doctor for your entire family.

Internal Medicine - Internists normally treat adults only (17 years or older).

Pediatrics - Pediatricians are specifically trained in the care of children, normally to their mid-teens.

Ob/Gyn - Obstetrician/gynecologists treat adult women.

Sub-specialties - PCPs do not necessarily have a sub-specialty; however, some PCPs have additional training in particular fields of medicine (like endocrinology or rheumatology) which could be a benefit if a family member has an ongoing or chronic condition.

Selecting the Primary Care Physician (PCP) that is best suited for you and your family is a foundation for good health care. Prepaid PCPs are the starting point for HMO members who need care; they select PCPs or they are assigned to doctors. PPO members are not required to designate PCPs, but because specialists cost more even PPO members should consider starting with a primary care doctor when seeking care.

To find out what PCPs are available to you through your medical plan, you can search for doctors using your plan's website or by calling your plan. You may also want to consider the following:

  • Availability - If you are considering a doctor that you have never seen before, be sure to call the doctor's office and find out if that doctor is accepting new patients through your medical plan.
  • Education/Training - Where/when did the doctor graduate from medical school? At what institution(s) did the doctor receive training?
  • License - You can find out the status of California physician licenses using the Medical Board of California website at http://www.mbc.ca.gov/Breeze/License_Lookup.aspx. This site will also report any disciplinary action taken by the Board against a physician.
  • Board Certification - Although all doctors must be licensed to practice medicine, some also are board certified; this means the doctor has completed several years of training in a specialty and passed an exam. For more information, visit the American Board of Medical Specialties website at http://www.abms.org or call them at (866) 275-2267.
  • Office Location - Is the doctor's office conveniently located? Is public transportation available?
  • Medical Group Affiliation - If you belong to an HMO (Health Maintenance Organization), your Primary Care Physician will usually refer you to physicians in the same group. With which medical group(s) is the doctor affiliated? Does that group offer access to a wide variety of specialists? Medical group ratings can be found on some medical plan websites, as well as in California's Quality of Care Report Card produced by the state Office of the Patient Advocate as well as on CalQualityCare.org.
  • Hospital Affiliation - With which hospital is the doctor affiliated? Is that hospital conveniently located? Hospital quality ratings can be found on the CalQualityCare.org website, on Medicare.gov, as well as on some medical plan web sites.
  • Urgent Care - Is there an urgent care facility available or are you required to use the Emergency Room at the hospital? If an urgent care center is available is it convenient and what are the hours of operation?
  • Male or Female - This is a matter of your personal preference.
  • Foreign Languages - Would you or one of your family benefit from a PCP that spoke another language?
  • Age - This is also a matter of your preference.

Many of the answers to these questions can be found on your medical plan's website, or on the website of the medical group (or groups) to which your doctor belongs. Medical groups near UC Davis include:

This information is only a general guide. There may be more pertinent information you should consider prior to choosing your PCP. For more information on this topic, see the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality guide to choosing a doctor: http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/cc/cc071508.htm.