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Having a primary care doctor is important for your health – it’s a kind of medical “home” where you can go with any problems that arise and where someone knows your medical history. A primary care doctor can monitor your health and refer you to specialists.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the early signs of depression, cancer or chronic illness are often detected in primary care.

However, finding a primary care doctor isn’t always easy. According to the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration, Greene County had 84.42 primary care doctors per 100,000 residents as of 2022-2023. (These figures include only doctors of medicine (MDs) and do not include doctors of osteopathy (DOs) or nurse practitioners.) In St. Louis County, there were 208.65 primary care doctors per 100,000 residents during the same period.

Here are some tips and resources for finding a PCP in the Springfield area.

Where should I start?

With two health systems, a community health center, and several private practices, it can be difficult to even begin your search for a PCP. But it doesn’t have to be.

For the Cox Health system, there is what Heather Swearengin calls a “kind of easy button”: the information hotline 417-269-INFO (4636).

Swearengin, vice president of customer experience at Cox, said the hotline, which is a one-stop shop for finding Cox-affiliated PCPs, has been around for several years, but not everyone knows about it.

The hotline is staffed by a team that works with each caller to “help them find a primary care physician, understand their individual needs and connect them with the right place,” Swearengin said.

Both health systems also offer patients the ability to schedule appointments online. Mercy and Cox both have an appointment scheduling page for various services.

While Mercy does not offer an information hotline, the website allows you to see which providers are accepting new patients, have the fastest appointment times, or offer virtual visits.

How can I be sure that a provider is listening to me?

It’s important to find a doctor who will work with you, whether it’s knowledgeable about conditions like diabetes, managing chronic diseases, or dealing with aging.

When looking for a provider, it’s best to ask about their experience in dealing with situations like yours. Additionally, the CoxHealth Infoline can help you find a provider that’s right for you.

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“We can help people get where they need to go based on their individual needs,” Swearengin said.

For members of the LGBTQ+ community, lgbtqhealthcaredirectory.org provides lists of physicians who are knowledgeable and sensitive to the health needs of this population.

How do I know if the PCP I am considering is on the network?

A provider that is “in-network” with your insurance company has a contract with your health plan. According to insurance provider Cigna, in-network providers and facilities “must meet certain eligibility requirements and agree to a reduced rate for services covered under the health plan to be part of the network.” An out-of-network provider does not have a contract with your health plan and may charge full price.

There are several ways to determine if the PCP you want is on your network:

  • Go to your insurance company’s website: The easiest way to find out if a provider is in-network is to go to your insurance company’s website and log in or follow the prompts (some insurers require your zip code and part of your group number) to see a list of in-network providers.
  • Call Member Services: You can contact your insurance provider’s member services line (usually a toll-free number on your insurance card). They can answer any questions you may have about your plan and coverage.
  • Ask your healthcare provider: The PCP practice may be able to tell you if your insurance is accepted based on your insurance card.

Even if your insurance list says a doctor is accepting new patients, it’s probably a good idea to call and check with the provider’s office. Sometimes insurance providers don’t have the most up-to-date information on a PCP’s scheduling.

Susan Szuch covers health and nutrition for the Springfield News-Leader. Follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter, at @szuchsm. Story idea? Email her at [email protected].