Are you trying to find a family doctor who can treat everyone in your household, from your small children to your aging parents? Family doctors can do this, but finding the right one involves more than just asking friends for good recommendations. You need to schedule a consultation if you can so you can ask the doctor questions about his or her practice. Knowing how the doctor would handle certain situations is essential for forming a good patient-doctor relationship.
Referral vs. Specialization
Family doctors are like a combination of pediatrician and internal medicine doctor. They handle the general health issues for all ages, but some family doctors are very knowledgeable about certain conditions and can help patients with those conditions instead of referring them on to specialists. For example, a family doctor might have a keen interest in food allergies and be able to help treat a family member of yours who has food allergies. (The official testing should be done by an allergist, but often once the treatment protocol is established, the regular family doctor can take over monitoring the situation.)
However, not all family doctors have a specialty. If you are fine with being referred to specialists for many conditions, then a family doctor who practices only general medicine should be acceptable. If you want to avoid splitting care between too many doctors, though, a family doctor who specializes in a condition that you or a family member has is a better choice.
If you need surgery at some point -- even a minor, in-office type of procedure like a cyst removal -- you have to check if this will affect your insurance coverage because many medical practices are independent contractors, and many medical practices use independent contractors. These independent contractors can have different insurance network memberships, and that can stick you with higher bills than you expect. For example, if your in-network family doctor wants you to use a hospital that itself is in network but that uses anesthesiologists that are out of network, that's going to increase what you pay for any procedure.
Some doctors belong to clinic networks that have standardized the insurance coverage of everyone who does any procedure in any of its clinics or hospitals. It's good to try to find a family doctor who belongs to a network like this (it makes it way easier on you financially), but if you can't find a family doctor who is in one of these networks, question the doctor very carefully about how he or she chooses who to work with or who to refer to during procedures.
To find the best fit for your family, talk to clinics like Rural Health Services Consortium Inc.