7 Tips for Choosing a Primary Care Provider

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7 Tips for Choosing a Primary Care Provider

Whether you’re new to town, have never taken the time to seek out a permanent doctor or just want to make a change, it’s hard to know where to start when choosing the RIGHT primary care provider for you. Here are seven tips on how to find your next provider:

1. Determine what type of provider you want or need.

“Primary care” is a broad term that covers a few types of providers and specialties.

Internal Medicine

While pediatricians specialize in children, internal medicine physicians specialize in the general care of adults.

Family Medicine

A Family Medicine doctor also sees adults, but that’s not necessarily where their practice ends. As the name may imply, family medicine providers have the ability to see the whole family from infancy to adulthood. If this is something that interests you, just make sure you ask whether or not that provider actually does see patients of all ages, as some may elect to just see one segment of the population.


Those over the age of 65 may consider seeing a geriatrician, depending on their relative health and independence. Geriatricians are usually family medicine or internal medicine physicians who have undergone an extra year of training to better support older adults with daily functionality and navigating the wide variety of health concerns they face.

Physician Assistant/Nurse Practitioner

Both physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) have advanced degrees that make them eligible to treat and diagnose illnesses. The primary difference between the two is that PAs work under the supervision of a physician while NPs have a little more autonomy, depending on their level of education and certification. The benefit to seeing either a PA or NP is that they generally have better availability, meaning you can get in to see them quicker.

2. Find a provider who’s within your insurance network.

Your health insurance company will have a list of providers, either online or in your benefits summary packet, that they have identified as being within their network. While you are under no obligation to choose an in-network physician, you will generally pay lower co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses for these providers. Before choosing or visiting a provider, you should make sure to review your health insurance benefits so you are clear on the expected expenses.

3. Decide what area of town is most convenient for you.

If you have to take off time from work to go see your provider, you may want to choose one that’s close to your workplace. Likewise, if you are home for most of the day, finding someone in your neighborhood or who is near your regular pharmacy may be beneficial.

4. Do your homework.

One of the best ways to get a sense of what provider may be right for you is to get a first-hand account of their care style from someone who has seen them before. Friends and family members are usually the first people we look to for these recommendations, but you can also learn about them online if you don’t know many people in the area. Just keep in mind that comments left online are based entirely on the personal opinion of those who take the time to write a review, not quality data or metrics.

5. Consider the conveniences offered by the practice.

Do they have online scheduling? Same-day or next-day appointments? Are they easy to communicate with? Are there other providers within the same practice who can see you if yours is away? How long does that provider spend with each patient on average? A quick phone call to the clinic should provide you with the answers to these questions. Before you call, make a list of any other conveniences, such as handicap accessibility, that may be important to you so you can ask about those as well.

6. Find out what their credentials are.

Where did they go to school? Where was their residency training? Do they have certifications above what’s qualified by law? Providers actively practicing in the state of Louisiana have all been deemed by law to be technically qualified, but many types of providers choose to go above and beyond the basic requirements. For example, they may choose to seek Board Certification, which requires additional residency time, testing and a peer review. Most providers will mention these types of additional qualifications in their online biographies, but you can also find them at certificationmatters.org.

7. Ask about their hospital affiliation.

The hospital that your provider is affiliated with, or will send you to if you need hospital-level care, may not be a primary concern if you are in good general health, but if you have one or more chronic health problems this could be important. Does the hospital your provider works with specialize in care for your illness or condition? Does the hospital system have a wide variety of related specialists?

Find out more about Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group, and our network of more than 400 providers today by visiting www.ololphysiciangroup.com.

About Dr. Chastain

Dr. Curtis Chastain received his medical degree from Louisiana State University Medical Center in Shreveport in 1987. A native of Baton Rouge, he received his bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Ochsner Foundation Hospital in New Orleans, and received his board certification from the American College of Physicians in Internal Medicine in September 1991, and achieved recertification in 2001. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, and is member of the American College of Physician Executives, Louisiana State Medical Society, and the East Baton Rouge Parish Medical Society.

Dr. Chastain is the Director of the Men’s Health Center; his medical practice is focused on primary care of the adult male. Dr. Chastain also serves as President of Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group.

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  1. My wife and I are looking for a primary care doctor for our family, and I really liked your suggestion to ask about their hospital affiliation, and where we would go for extra care. I think that looking into a few different primary care doctors is a good idea, and if they check out on all of your tips, I would go with whoever you like the best. You don’t want to dread going to the doctors office more than necessary, so I think its good to at least like your primary care physician.