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How to Choose Your Family Doctor

With so many doctors in Des Moines, it can be hard finding the right one. Follow these tips to choose the right family physician for your crew.

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Choosing a primary care provider is one of the most important decisions you can make for yourself and your family. When you have a strong relationship with your doctor, your family is more likely to get preventative care and less likely to end up in the hospital. With hundreds of family physicians in the Des Moines area, how do you choose the best doctor for your family?

All it takes is a little homework. There are many things to consider: location, recommendations from friends and family, experience, your insurance network. Ultimately, you want to choose a family doctor you feel comfortable with and trust to visit in your times of need for years to come.

“Going to the doctor’s office can be scary, and opening up to a complete stranger about your health history isn’t easy. That’s why it’s important to feel comfortable with your doctor. You want to find that someone you can connect with,” says Huda Jarmakani, DO, a Family Medicine doctor at The Iowa Clinic’s Ankeny location.

1. Start your search for a family doctor before you have a need.

The last thing you want to do is rush a decision when you have an urgent health issue or need to name a primary care provider on your insurance. Ideally, you should look for a family physician before you move or shortly after you arrive in a new city.

If you’re making a switch, take the time to gather the information you need well before it’s time for your annual check-up. For a new child, find a doctor early on in your pregnancy. You’ll visit the Family Medicine clinic the most in those first few years!

2. Locate the family doctors near you.

Obviously, you need to find a doctor in the Des Moines area. Even if you loved your doctor in another city, you can’t expect to travel to a physician further away when someone in your family is sick or injured.

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Once you’ve targeted your search to Central Iowa, location may be a more flexible factor. You may be willing to drive across town for quality care. Or you may prefer a doctor close to home, work, school or daycare to make getting to and from appointments even faster.

3. Gather doctor ratings and recommendations.

You can find rankings for the best doctors and reviews across the web. At The Iowa Clinic, you’ll find a five-star rating front and center on every doctor’s profile. It’s current, reliable data based on recent patient surveys.

But the most trusted reviews come from the people you already know and trust. Talk to the people closest to you to get a good list of family doctor recommendations – family, friends, even neighbors or coworkers. You might get a glowing referral that makes your decision a whole lot easier.

4. Learn more about your new doctor.

Recs and ratings are certainly helpful, but don’t tell you the whole story. Do you prefer a younger physician or someone a little more seasoned? Does your family have certain conditions that your new doctor needs to have a clinical interest in or experience treating?

These are all critical questions for making a final decision. Read up on your short list of family physicians to learn where they went to school, where their expertise lies and what credentials or board certifications they hold.

You’ll also learn about what they’re like away from work, which is important too. You may find you have children the same age or that share the same hobbies. You never know what you and your new doctor will have in common that creates an even deeper relationship than you expected with your provider.


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 8:30am to 4:30pm.

5. Double-check your insurance network.

There’s a big cost difference between going to a doctor who’s in your network versus one who’s out-of-network. Even if they’re a local Des Moines family physician, they may not be a part of your insurance plan.

Contact your insurance provider for a complete list of in-network doctors to ensure your final choices are a fit financially too.

6. Schedule visits with your finalists.

There’s nothing like a face-to-face meeting to get a feel for a new family doctor. Most physicians who are accepting new patients make time for simple meet-and-greets. It’s a great opportunity to get to know each other, gauge your comfort level and start developing a patient-provider relationship. As a bonus, you’ll also get an introduction to the clinic, scheduling process and staff so you know what to expect at future appointments.

7. Come prepared with questions to ask your new doctor.

Remember, you’re essentially interviewing candidates for the role of “Family Physician for My Family.” Getting to know each other is great, but you’ll still want to ask the questions that are important to you and your family’s health — especially if anyone has specific health needs.

Think about what’s most important for you – your non-negotiables – and pay attention to them when you meet the physician. “Every patient deserves a doctor who treats them with respect, listens to their questions and concerns, encourages them to ask questions and explains things in a way they can understand,” says Dr. Jarmakani.

Make a list of five to 10 questions and ask them at every new doctor visit. Your questions are unique to your needs, but these ones can evoke helpful answers:

  1. What is your healthcare philosophy or patient approach?
  2. Do you have experience treating my (or my child’s) condition?
  3. What other areas do you have experience or expertise in?
  4. Are you or the staff available during or after clinic hours to respond to health-related questions or emergencies?
  5. What’s your work schedule and how easy is it to get in for appointments?

8. Choose the best family doctor of the bunch.

After making the rounds and talking to a number of Des Moines family physicians, you have all the info you need to make a decision. If you liked all of them and they checked all the boxes, it could be a tough choice!

You’re weighing a lot of important information but in a decision like this, it’s more important to trust your gut. Your new doctor will be the hub of your family’s healthcare. It’s critical to have one you connect with and who can easily connect you to the care you need. As the years go by, they’ll become a trusted resource and, outside of yourself, the most important person involved in the health and wellness of your entire family.

But if you need help finding a doctor that’s right for your family, you don’t have to make this big decision alone. There’s a Patient Communication Coordinator waiting to take your call and help you find the family physician that meets your preferences and healthcare needs. Call 515.875.9200 for guidance in choosing the best family doctor.

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