8 Tips for Choosing an Internist

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on May 11, 2020
  • Female doctor
    A Personal Decision
    Choosing an internist—a primary care doctor who specializes in adult care—is one of the most important and personal decisions you can make. You depend on your internist’s knowledge and expertise to keep you healthy, when coping with an illness, or when hospitalized. How do you find the best internist who is right for you? Here are important factors to keep in mind.
  • Businessman on phone
    1. Get Referrals
    Get started by creating a list of potential internists. You can do this by asking family, friends, and other healthcare providers for recommendations. As you narrow down your list, call each internist’s office to make a consult appointment to meet and interview the doctor.
  • Businesswoman using computer tablet
    2. Research the Internist’s Credentials
    Board certification is one of the most important factors to consider when you are choosing an internist. It tells you that the doctor has the necessary training, skills and experience to provide healthcare in internal medicine. Also confirm that the internist has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find the internist’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history on Healthgrades.com and state websites.
  • Doctor studying x-ray
    3. Consider the Internist’s Experience
    When it comes to your health, experience matters. The more experience an internist has with a condition or procedure, the better your results are likely to be. Ask how many patients with your specific condition the internist has treated. If you know you need a specific procedure, ask how many of the procedures the doctor has performed and find out about complication rates—complications the doctor has encountered as well as your own risk of complications.
  • Doctor examining patient
    4. Consider Gender
    It’s important for you to feel comfortable with your internist’s gender because you will need to openly discuss personal information. Your own gender is also an important consideration when it comes to certain types of specialized internal medicine care, such as cardiac care. Ask the internist about his or her recent training and experience specifically related to your condition and your gender.
  • African American male doctor typing on laptop at desk in office
    5. Ask About Telehealth Capabilities
    Healthcare providers can diagnose and treat some patients using telecommunications technology, including two-way video, smartphones, and email; it's called telehealth. Ask if the doctor offers telehealth capabilities. Telehealth doesn’t replace hands-on in-person office visits, but for many patients, it means fewer trips to the doctor’s office. Some conditions can be managed by sending symptoms and vital signs you collect at home and having a “virtual visit” with your provider. Telehealth can also be used for routine follow-ups and minor complaints too, making it a convenient option. Check to make sure your health insurance will pay for telehealth services.
  • Couple talking with doctor about medical results
    6. Evaluate Communication Style
    You will likely visit your internist regularly. Choose an internist with whom you are comfortable talking and who supports your information needs. ​When you first meet the internist, ask a question and notice how he or she responds. Does he or she welcome your questions and answer them in ways that you can understand? Did the internist spend enough time with you or did you feel rushed at your appointment? Find an internist who shows an interest in getting to know you, who will consider your treatment preferences, and who will respect your decision-making process.
  • Mans hands on laptop computer
    7. Read Patient Reviews
    Reading what other people have to say about a doctor can provide insight into how a doctor practices medicine, as well as how his or her medical practice is operated. Patient reviews typically ask people about their experience with scheduling appointments, wait times, office environment, and office staff friendliness. You can learn how well patients trust the doctor, how much time he or she spends with their patients, and how well he or she answers questions.
  • Insurance label on envelope
    8. Know What Your Insurance Covers
    Your insurance coverage is a practical matter. To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your care, you may need to choose an internist who participates in your plan. You should still consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and hospital quality as you select an internist from your plan.
8 Tips for Choosing an Internist

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2017 Jun 25
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.