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Need to find a primary care doctor in Springfield? Where to start

Having a primary care provider is important for your health — it’s a medical “home” where you can go with any problems you encounter where someone knows your background. A PCP can track your health and has the ability to refer you to specialists.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, primary care services are where the first signs of depression, cancer or chronic illness are often identified.

However, finding a PCP isn’t always easy. In Greene County, there were 84.42 primary care physicians per 100,000 people from 2022 to 2023, according to the United States Health Resources & Services Administration. (Those numbers are only counting doctors of medicine — M.D.s — and does not include doctors of osteopathy — D.O.s — or nurses.) St. Louis County had 208.65 primary care physicians per 100,000 people in that same time.

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

Where do I start?

With two health care systems, a community health center and various private practices, it can be difficult to even begin the search for a PCP. However, it doesn’t have to be.

For the Cox Health system, there’s what Heather Swearengin calls “kind of an easy button”: The info line, 417-269-INFO (4636).

Swearengin, who is VP of customer experience at Cox, said that the line, which is a centralized place for people to find Cox-affiliated PCPs, has been around for a couple years but not everyone knows about it.

The line is staffed by a team that works with each caller to “help them find a primary care physician, understand what their unique needs might be and get them connected to the appropriate place,” Swearengin said.

Both health systems also offer patients the ability to make appointments online. Mercy has a scheduling page for various services, as does Cox.

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

How can I be sure a provider will listen to me?

It’s important to find a health care provider who will work with you, whether that’s knowing about conditions like diabetes, handling chronic conditions or navigating aging.

The best thing to do when looking for providers is to ask questions about their experience handling situations like yours. Additionally, the CoxHealth info line can help you find a provider that suits you.

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

For those in the LGBTQ+ community, lgbtqhealthcaredirectory.org offers listings of doctors who are knowledgeable and sensitive to that population’s health needs.

How can I know if the PCP I’m considering is in network?

A provider that is “in network” with your insurance means that the provider has a contract with your insurance health plan. In-network providers and facilities “must meet certain credentialing requirements and agree to accept a discounted rate for covered services under the health plan in order to be part of the network,” according to insurance provider Cigna. An out-of-network provider has no contract with your insurance plan and can charge full price.

There are a couple different ways you can tell if the PCP you want to go to is in 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 sign 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 — usually a toll-free number located on your insurance card — who can answer any questions about your plan and coverage.
  • Ask your care provider: The PCP’s office may be able to tell you if they take your insurance by looking at your insurance card.

Additionally, even if your insurance’s 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 may not have the most up-to-date information on a PCP’s scheduling.

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

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