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How to Choose a Health Care Provider

doctor talking to patient

Choosing a doctor is important – and you are faced with a lot of decisions. At Atlantic Health System, we want to be your source for all health care decisions. This doctor will care for you and your family; refer you to specialists, when needed; and so much more. And if it comes time to see a medical specialist – such as doctors focused on a specific disease or health condition – what information about the doctors do you need to consider?

Selecting a Primary Care Provider

Many people believe that family medicine physicians are internal medicine physicians are one and the same. While both specialties provide excellent care, the difference is in the training, and the type of patient that they treat. They treat a wide range of health issues and can help with various specialists.

The term “primary care practitioner (PCP)” refers to any of the following types of medical professionals:

  • Family medicine physician – care and treatment for family members of all ages
  • Internal medicine physician – care and treatment focuses on adults
  • Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) – provide a wide spectrum of care for assessing, managing, diagnosing and treating illness
  • Physician Assistant (PA) – diagnose and manage medical conditions with a focus on preventive medicine, and provide a wide spectrum of patient care
  • Midwife – provides gynecological and reproductive care
  • Pediatrician – provide primary, gynecological and reproductive care typically treats patients from infancy to early adulthood (most notably, age 23)
  • Geriatrician – treats older adults, usually considered age 60 and older

Criteria for Selecting a Provider

What should you consider when selecting a primary care provider? At Atlantic Health System, we have more than 4,000 medical providers on staff who can treat you – whether it is in the hospital or in a private practice setting.

In addition to "going with your instincts," some additional criteria to consider when selecting a health provider:

  • Proximity from your home or work – Atlantic Health System has physicians who have private practices throughout Northern and Central New Jersey
  • Fees (copay/out of network)
  • Insurance participation
  • Referrals from a friend or family member
  • Areas of expertise
  • Comfort level with the provider
  • Office staff is friendly and helpful
  • Convenient office hours
  • Electronic medical records
  • Online scheduling*
  • Appointment availability and waiting time
  • Accepting new patients
  • Medical education and professional background
  • Hospital affiliation
  • Ratings and reviews from verified patients*

*Atlantic Medical Group providers have this feature.

beautiful mom with silly son

At the End of the Day... Go with Your Instincts

Ever heard that saying before? There's a lot of truth to it. Overall, when you are meeting with your provider, trust your gut. If you got a good "vibe," chances are, you should stick with that doctor. What's more, word of mouth referrals are great, whether they are from a trusted friend or family member, or online reviews. Don’t stop utilizing them from a trusted source!

Prior to your first appointment with a health care provider, consider the following:

  • Do you feel at ease with this provider?
  • Did you have enough time to ask questions? Were they answered? Did you feel rushed?
  • Did he or she explain things in a way you understood?
  • Was the office staff friendly?
  • If a procedure is needed, did he or she explain what to expect? 

What Should You Bring to Your Appointment?

Don't forget some of these important items when you visit your provider:

  • List of medications and allergies and preexisting medical conditions
  • Medical records (such as previous operative reports) pertaining to the reason for your visit
  • Questions to ask your provider (bring a pen and paper to take notes)
  • Family history and hereditary medical conditions
  • Driver’s license or identification, and medical ID card
  • Copay (please contact your insurance provider to confirm fee)