By Ed Brewer

Everyone should have a doctor to contact when you get the sniffles or to simply get a physical exam once a year. Having an established, relationship with a primary care physician, opens the door to appointments instead of having a doctor ‘s office say they do not have any openings at this time. In addition, some doctors provide email services for patients to email questions or send reminders of upcoming appointments.

Choosing a doctor is a personal preference, however, the best way to find a doctor is to ask friends and family who they use and discuss their experiences. There are also websites that provide information about a physician’s education, specialty, and some have actual patient comments available.

Most healthcare plans provide a cost savings when you see an in-network provider. They can provide a list of physicians and from the list the first question to ask is “are they in your network?” If so, ask if they are taking new patients. If not, move on down the list.

For those taking new patients, make a list of questions that are important to you before you call. For example, how does the doctor interact with patients? Are appointments usually on time? Are there other doctors in the practice? How do they manage off-hour emergencies? Do they prescribe generic medicines? Do they have evening or Saturday hours available?

Another avenue is to visit your health insurance company’s website. Most have options to help you select a physician. The tool provides you with choices to select a desired gender, location, specialty, and if available, they provide a link to check out the physician’s website.

To get the maximum benefit from your health care provider, register on their website. Once registered, review your personal plan and if you do have questions, or before an emergency happens, call your customer service rep to get the answers.

Keep contact numbers for your doctor, hospitals, or medical referral procedures available.  Know if you have a co-pay or an annual deductible for medical visits and or emergency room visits. Most health care plan websites provide information about staying healthy, have diagnostic tools to help determine what your symptoms may be, and in addition, provide your personal claims activities. Use these sites to become an informed consumer.

Being an informed consumer gives you the advantage – whether you’re just going in for your annual physical, or resolving any health issues that may have been unnoticed.

Ed Brewer is an account executive with Peachtree Benefit Group, is a locally owned and operated, full-service employee benefits firm, in business for more than 25 years with over 200 domestic and international client groups. www.peachtreebenefitgroup.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.