Consumer Reports: Finding a good primary care doctor

Many health insurance plans require you to designate a primary care physician, but finding the right doctor can be difficult. Consumer Reports has some suggestions on how to make sure you find a good one.

You want a kind, caring, competent doctor - but choosing Doctor Right is daunting. Consumer Reports' medical advisor, Orly Avitzur, says your primary care doctor is critical to your health.

"Evidence suggests having a primary care doctor means you're less likely to die of cancer, heart disease, or stroke. You're also less likely to need to go to an emergency room or be admitted to a hospital," Avitzur said.

Use your first appointment with any new doctor to make sure you'll work well together.

Did he or she listen without interrupting? Did the doctor ask more than just a checklist of yes/no questions?

Primary care physician James Welters says a lot can be learned by just chatting with your doctor.

"Some of the most fortuitous things are when people really come in for one thing, but when you start to talk to them about it, it's really something else. And if you had just went down the path of, say, abdominal pain and ignored their other concerns, then you might've missed something," Dr. Welters said.

You want a doctor who also asks for your input. How do you feel about possible treatment options?

"Patients who have a strong relationship with their physician not only report greater satisfaction with their care but also better overall health," Avitzur said.

And above all, you want a doctor who orders the right tests and prescribes the best possible treatment. Reliable data on those measures are hard to find, although physician report cards are becoming more common. You can go to to see if there's a report card for your doctor.

You also want a primary care physician you can afford. So call the office to make sure the doctor is in your insurance plan. And find out his or her hospital affiliation. If the hospital is outside your network, you could be hit by a big bill.

More advice on finding a good doctor is available at:

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