Meet Steve Walden

Core Traits of an Attentive and Competent Primary Care Physician

Having a primary care physician (PCP) is an asset and an integral part of your ongoing health care. A primary care physician comes to know you so that when things aren't normal with you, he or she is able to detect the changes. Because of the central role a PCP plays in helping to keep you healthy, it's important to develop a relationship with a doctor who has the attributes required to provide you with quality preventative care in addition to excellent continuity of care.

When choosing a health care provider, look for a primary care physician who:

  1. Provides patient-centered care that includes curative, palliative, and preventive care as needed. A good PCP keeps you well informed on your condition and the treatments available. He or she will welcome your participation in designing a treatment plan by listening to what you have to say and encouraging you to ask questions about things you don't understand.

  2. Sees that you have access to the medical care you need when you need it. If you need more specialized care than you primary care physician can provide, he or she will send you to specialists who can help you. Your PCP will make the appropriate referrals to connect you with board-certified specialists in your area.

  3. Places focus on disease prevention by conducting well-care visits and health screenings to detect symptoms early. Early diagnosis leads to improved patient care and better outcomes for you.

  4. Can manage both chronic and urgent health complaints. When it comes to disease management, your primary care physician will provide appropriate care to lower the risk of potential complications associated with your chronic illness.

    A doctor who is a good diagnostician will take your complaints seriously and ask when your symptoms first began. He or she will not only interpret test results but will also consider more than one possible cause for your symptoms and avoid misdiagnosis. Your PCP will hear you out and allow you to take your time in explaining what is wrong.

  5. Uses updated communication technologies and is available by email. Communicating by email when you have a question or brief message to convey between doctor visits can save you and your primary care physician time.

  6. Keeps to his or her appointment schedule, which is particularly important when you are ill and find long waits to see the doctor difficult to manage. You also may find it more convenient to visit a doctor who offers on-site x-rays and lab work.

Other Factors to Consider

When assessing a doctor's qualities, if the number of years of experience is a key consideration for you, inquire about his or her experience treating patients with your particular health issues. Ask how many patients the doctor has seen over a particular period of time with medical conditions similar to yours.

If innovative health practices matter more to you than the length or extent of a doctor's professional experience, keep in mind that a younger physician may be more up-to-date on recent medical advances and more willing to try new treatment regimens.