During a recent visit with a friend, she recalled that I work in the health care industry and proceeded to throw 50 questions my way about finding a new doctor for her mom, who had just moved to the area. Before beginning to share my limited knowledge with her, I prefaced – as I always do when approached with this question – that I work in the nonmedical side of the business, so I am not the expert.
However, asking a friend and asking someone in the medical field are great starting points.
Finding the right doctor will require a little homework, but the research is well worth the time investment. After all, this person will manage most of your health needs, and probably, for the rest of your life. This individual is your medical manager, your medical home. You are trusting your physician to help you maintain a long and healthy life.
So, Where Do You Start? Here are a few questions to ask…
What Kind of Doctor Do I Need?
Am I looking for a primary care physician – a doctor who will oversee most of my medical needs? Or, do I need a specialist for my heart condition or my orthopedic needs? Do I have a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes, and need a physician with special expertise in that field?
Once you identify the type of doctor you need, here are the next questions to answer.
Will the Doctor Accept My Health Insurance?
Make this step one of your first. If you conduct all the research and find the perfect doctor, only to learn he/she does not accept your insurance, you will have to start your search all over again.
Once you find the list of physicians who match your medical needs and who will accept your insurance, now a deeper dig begins.
What Is the Doctor’s Background?
Many websites provide detailed information about the physicians on your list. Here are several:
- • Administrators in Medicine (AIM DocFinder)
• American Medical Association Doctor Finder
• AngiesList.com (rates doctors on an A to F scale)
• Castle Connolly
• Physician Compare (for Medicare patients)
• Yelp.com (rates one to five stars)
What Should You Be Looking for When Searching These Sites?
- 1. BOARD CERTIFICATIONS – does the doctor have any and are they current?
2. SPECIALTY TRAINING – fellowships or special expertise in a specific field of medicine (e.g., geriatric medicine, cancer care, shoulder injuries)
3. RED FLAGS – malpractice claims, disciplinary actions or negative patient reviews; even good doctors may get sued, but look for a pattern of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions
Now That You Have Narrowed Your Search,
Here are a few more – very important – considerations:
- 1. LOCATION – do you want a physician close to home?
2. HOSPITAL AFFILIATION – do you have a hospital of choice where you want to receive your care, and does your physician admit to that hospital?
3. OFFICE HOURS – do the physician’s office hours work with your schedule? Will you have to take time off work to see the doctor? Is there a long wait for an appointment? Will the doctor take you the same day if your needs are urgent?
Is the Doctor Compatible with You?
Finally, you believe you have chosen a physician who seems to fit all of your criteria. To seal the deal, you may want to see if you can set up a meet-and-greet time to meet the doctor, check out his/her office and staff and see if he/she is the right fit. Doctors may look great on paper but may not be great for you.
You want a physician you are comfortable with, someone you can be honest with, someone you trust and someone who communicates clearly. The doctor/patient relationship is critical. Will this doctor fit your medical as well as personal needs?
Also, while waiting for your introductory meeting with your doctor, look around the waiting area. Is it warm and inviting? How do the staff interact with patients? How long is the wait?
My friend has some homework to do in finding the right doctor for her mom, but it is time well spent. She is entrusting this individual to make the right decisions regarding her mother’s health – and quality of life.
How Do I Find the Right Doctor? Your Quick Guide
- 1. Do they accept my insurance?
2. Do they have the skill set and expertise to meet my personal health needs?
3. How many malpractice claims and disciplinary actions do they have against them?
4. Is their office location convenient?
5. Do they admit to my hospital of choice?
6. Are the doctor’s hours convenient?
7. How long does it take to get an appointment?
8. Does the staff treat me pleasantly and with respect?
9. If the doctor is in a group, am I comfortable seeing one of the other doctors?
10. Do I feel the doctor is the right fit for me?