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Choosing Your Doctor

Choosing a primary care provider is a task that deserves serious thought.

“Your primary care provider is there not only for times of illness but also to help with preventive care and with managing chronic conditions,” says Heidi Calipjo, M.D., who cares for patients of all ages at Lake Regional Clinic – Osage Beach. “You are looking to form a partnership, and trust is critical. Take some time to find the right partner to receive the best care possible.”

Who Is a Primary Care Provider?

Your primary care provider regularly cares for you and keeps track of your overall health history. You call this provider first for most medical or health concerns.

There are different types of primary care providers. You may choose a doctor of medicine, M.D.; doctor of osteopathic medicine, D.O.; physician assistant, P.A.; or nurse practitioner, N.P. All of these health care providers have advanced education and clinical training.

In addition to these provider categories, there are other terms that refer to special training primary care providers may have:

  • General practitioners treat a wide range of medical problems in people of all ages.
  • Family practitioners are similar to general practitioners but have extra training to care for all family members, from newborns to seniors.
  • Pediatricians are doctors who care for children from birth through age 21.
  • Internists are doctors for adults. Some internists take additional training to become specialists. For example, a cardiologist is an internist who specializes in heart disease.
  • Geriatricians are doctors who care for older adults. A geriatrician is trained in family practice or internal medicine and has additional training in caring for seniors.

Before Your First Appointment

There are other factors besides the provider’s background to consider, such as insurance coverage and distance to the office. Before making an appointment, call the provider’s office or visit their website to determine the following.

  • What type of health insurance does the office take?
  • Where is the doctor’s office located? Is there parking?
  • Is the doctor part of a group practice? If so, who are the other doctors and what are their specialties?
  • Who sees patients if the doctor is out of town or not available?
  • Can I get lab work or X-rays done in the office or nearby?

Thinking It Through

Once you’ve had a visit, take time to assess the experience. Were you comfortable asking questions? Did the provider listen well? Did the provider answer your questions in a way you could understand? Did you feel confident in the answers? Were office staff and nurses helpful and friendly?

If the answer to all of these is yes, then your search has likely come to a successful end. But, the partnership is just beginning.

“In a partnership, both sides must contribute for the relationship to work,” Dr. Calipjo says. “Your part is to make regular office visits and to be open in sharing all health concerns. That will enable your provider to provide the best care to keep you healthy and well.”

Looking for a Doctor?

Find a doctor using Lake Regional’s online provider directory at Or, visit and click a location to see a list of providers at that clinic.