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How to Choose a Family Doctor in La Jolla

Choosing the right physician for you and your family can sometimes be challenging, especially if you are new to an area or your current doctor retires or leaves. Fortunately, there are many ways to choose the right doctor in La Jolla. Here are a few helpful tips.

Determine the type of doctor you need. A family doctor is often called a primary care provider. As such, he or she can serve as the main doctor for you and your family, one who provides preventative care, treats common problems and refers you to medical specialists if necessary. There are several types of primary care providers:

Family practitioners – These are doctors who have completed a family practice residency and are board certified in this specialty. They can treat your whole family, including children and adults. Sometimes their practice includes obstetrics and minor surgery.

Pediatricians – There are doctors who have completed a pediatric residency and are board certified in this specialty. They can treat newborn babies, infants, children and adolescents.

Internists – Internists have completed a residency in internal medicine and are board certified in this specialty. They can treat adults of all ages for a wide variety of medical problems.

Obstetricians/gynecologists – These doctors have completed an ob/gyn residency and are board certified in this specialty. They can serve as primary care providers for women.

Know your insurance and medical group requirements. Many insurance plans require you to have a primary care provider, who will serve as a coordinator of your overall health care needs as well as a personal doctor. Some insurance plans require that you select from their list of affiliated physicians or offer financial incentives for you to do so. It's always a good idea to check your insurance plan requirements before seeing a new doctor.

Use insurance, medical group and other online search tools. Fortunately, the internet has made it easier for us to find medical information and recommendations when we need it. Most insurance companies, medical groups and La Jolla hospitals have a physician's referral service. You can either call a toll-free number or search online by zip code, medical specialty and other criteria. In addition, many professional and consumer organizations, such as the American Medical Association or Consumer Reports, also offer physician referral services.

Ask for recommendations. Many times a friend, neighbor or co-worker will know just the right doctor for you. You can also ask your current doctor to recommend a replacement if he or she is retiring or if you're moving.

Know your own preferences. It's helpful to have some criteria in mind before selecting a new family doctor. What is important to you and your family? Do you want someone who focuses on preventative care or someone more conservative? Do you prefer a formal manner or a friendly one? Do you want a woman or a man doctor? Are the doctor's office hours and location convenient? Some people prefer to "interview" two or three family doctors before deciding. You may have to pay a small fee for this visit, but it can be worth it knowing you're making the best choice. Once you do select a new doctor, pay attention to how comfortable you feel with him or her. You want a family doctor you can work well with and who will help you stay healthy for many years to come.

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