Taking a more active role in your healthcare and finding a doctor you trust helps ensure you get the care you need when you need it.
by The Iowa Clinic on Thursday, June 16, 2022
When you’re busy in life and feeling healthy, going to the doctor can seem like a hassle. This is especially true if you don’t have a primary care physician you know and trust. It’s tempting to just wait until you have a health concern or symptoms of an illness to schedule an appointment.
“For people who are young and healthy, I understand that temptation,” says Dr. Barbara Hodne, DO, a family medicine physician who also serves as chief quality officer at The Iowa Clinic. “We do offer urgent care and our primary care doctors can see notes about care received there.”
“However, sometimes something that seems straightforward becomes more complicated,” Dr. Hodne says. “You may require follow-up care. A primary care provider is better suited to provide a more in-depth level of care. They are responsible for all aspects of your healthcare.”
There’s also the matter of being proactive about your health with regular physical exams. It takes a lot less effort to schedule a physical when you have a set primary care provider. Adding to that, attending to your health is going to be an even better experience when you trust your doctor.
However, finding a primary care provider that you get along with does take a little bit more work upfront. Just like any relationship in life, both sides must put in some effort. As a patient, you should feel empowered to meet with different primary care doctors until you find a good fit.
This is all easier said than done though. Thankfully Dr. Hodne has some tips.
Finding a primary care provider.
If you don’t have a primary care provider you may be wondering when is the best time to find one? You should look for one when you haven’t had a regular check-up in a while. That means seeing a doctor every year or two when you are younger, and at least once a year as you age.
“Scheduling a physical exam — when you don’t necessarily have symptoms of other health issues — is a great time to set up an appointment and have a ‘get to know you’ type session,” Dr. Hodne says. “You can discuss potential risk factors for disease and illness and establish a relationship.”
Not sure where to start?
Our Patient Communication Coordinators are available to listen to your needs and help find the right provider for you. Give us a call at 515.875.9200 – Tuesday through Friday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
Your primary care physician’s office is your home base for getting the care and attention you need. Meanwhile, urgent care is still a valid support option when you need faster relief. Your primary care physician can also provide a referral in the event you need to see a specialist.
What Should I Bring to My First Appointment?
“For anyone who has a significant medical history … bringing your records or requesting a record transfer for your first visit can be helpful,” Dr. Hodne says. “Making a list of medications you are taking can be helpful to ensure we are getting the medications and dosages correct.”
The more information you can bring about family medical history to a first appointment the better. But don’t stress too much if you’re unable to track down specific information on your health.
How Often Should I See My Doctor?
How often you should see your doctor will vary depending on your overall health and age. Here’s a quick breakdown of recommended intervals between doctor visits for various age groups.
- For infants and those in the early stages of life, you’ll want to meet with a pediatrician or family medicine provider who will determine how much care is necessary. For infants and small children, this will involve more frequent physicals and checkups. Your child’s doctor will also ensure that they are completing their primary immunization series in the recommended time frame.
- Children and teenagers will typically continue to see their physician about once a year for annual exams and they may visit a pediatrician or family medicine provider. Your child’s doctor will determine if any additional care is needed, based on medical history.
- Adults should aim to see a primary care physician, such as a family medicine or internal medicine doctor, at least every other year, if not every year. The frequency of your visits may vary based on family medical history and overall healthcare needs.
- Older adults should see a primary care physician at least once a year for an annual exam, if not more frequently. Older adults with chronic medical problems, such as hypertension or diabetes, should be seeing their doctor twice a year if well-controlled and once every 2 or 3 months if conditions like hypertension or diabetes are not properly managed.
When you build a relationship with a primary care provider, you will be less likely to skip annual appointments, which means you can stay on top of your health and even catch issues early.
How do I know if my doctor is a good fit for me?
Let’s say you’ve scheduled your appointment with a primary care provider. How do you know if that new doctor is the right fit for you? What are the things to look out for or think about?
“You want to feel like you’ve met a doctor who meets your needs that you can communicate with,” Dr. Hodne says. “Communication is important when developing a relationship. You want your doctor to get to know you and know you well. This builds a relationship of trust that allows you to feel good about the help you’re receiving. When you find a doctor that is a good fit, you can have an open dialogue about what care options align with your personal needs and values.”
Many of the best primary care doctors recognize that they also should make an effort to get to know their patients. Each doctor will approach this a little bit differently. A doctor that feels like a good fit for one person may not be a good fit for someone else, and most acknowledge this.
“Getting to know people is certainly important,” Dr. Hodne says. “I think wanting to take the time to talk about what treatment options are available for various medical problems is also important. You want those health conversations to hopefully be easy to understand and open-ended.”
“All topics should be open for discussion with your primary care doctor,” Dr. Hodne adds. “We’ll find ways to solve health challenges together and present options that fit with what a patient desires for their own healthcare. It’s sort of like your primary care doctor is the coach in your healthcare game, but you get to make the decisions that best align with your health goals.”
“If we cannot solve the problem together, then we’ll get the appropriate specialist onboard to help us address the issue and provide relevant treatment options for it,” Dr. Hodne says.
What can patients do to ensure their health needs are met?
You’ve heard the stories or maybe even experienced it. Doctors are busy people and may seem rushed for time. The best thing a patient can do to ensure there is plenty of time to address their health needs and any questions is to be upfront about why they are scheduling an appointment.
“I’m not saying that you can always know and communicate your health concerns when scheduling an appointment,” Dr. Hodne says. “But if the answer is that ‘I have multiple things I want to discuss,’ then verbalizing that when making your appointment can help.”
“It allows for us to book more adequate time for the appointment,” Dr. Hodne adds. “Just keep in mind that we may not be able to solve everything in one visit. We may need to do some investigation on our end and then meet again in a week or two to review our findings.”
“Also, if you and your doctor come up with a treatment plan during a visit and things aren’t going to plan — for instance if you follow that plan and are not feeling better — then it’s time to reach back out either through a message or call or follow-up visit,” Dr. Hodne says. “As a patient, you should never be afraid to come back and talk about what is or isn’t going well and determine changes to your treatment plan to help you do your best and function the best that you can.”
Do primary care relationships sometimes not work out?
Like any relationship in life, not all physician and patient relationships work out.
“I do think it’s especially important, in your primary care relationships, that you feel like you are able to communicate with one another, you feel like your doctor listens and that you’re heard and get to be part of the decision-making process when it comes to your healthcare,” Dr. Hodne says. “Sometimes, for whatever reason, a doctor just isn’t the right fit or there isn’t a good connection.”
“You should feel empowered to speak your needs and if your doctor is not on the same page, look for a primary care provider that meets your needs,” Dr. Hodne adds. “Good communication is probably the most important thing to look for in a relationship with a primary care provider.”
Why is The Iowa Clinic a good choice for primary care?
The Iowa Clinic has a network of pediatricians, family medicine doctors and internal medicine doctors with different personalities who are capable of handling your healthcare needs.
“We’ve got a lot of excellent primary care physicians who are passionate about the care they provide to patients,” Dr. Hodne says. “Our doctors recognize the importance of building long-term relationships with patients or patients and their families. That is a significant plus.”
Dr. Hodne also notes that The Iowa Clinic’s coordinated care model helps to ensure that your medical information and history is easily accessible across doctors and departments.
“Primary care and specialist communication is a real benefit,” Dr. Hodne adds. “We are also a multi-physician specialty clinic not owned by a hospital, which allows for cost-efficient care.”
Ready to get started? Scheduling an appointment is easy.
Another goal of The Iowa Clinic is making scheduling an appointment as easy as possible for both new and longtime patients. You can schedule an appointment with a primary care doctor either by calling in or setting up an appointment online. In-person scheduling is also available.
Established patients can even set up an appointment through the FollowMyHealth Portal, which is accessible via browser or mobile app. Scheduling an appointment is easy at The Iowa Clinic.
Make an appointment today and start building a relationship with a primary care provider you trust — one who will be your partner in helping you work toward your goals for better health.