Anyone can find themselves needing to find a new doctor. Perhaps you moved to a new area or your former doctor moved away or no longer takes your insurance. Perhaps he or she retired. There may have been some kind of problem that left you not wanting to return to a doctor’s care. Whatever the reason, finding a new doctor can seem confusing and overwhelming. However, it doesn’t have to be. It really breaks down to five simple steps. Those steps will be discussed shortly, but before that, here area few general signs of a good doctor:
- They listen and have a caring attitude
- They respect your time and don’t rush you
- They are knowledgeable and communicate this knowledge in simple terms
- They are affiliated with respected hospitals
- They are responsive and easy to reach
- Their staff is efficient and friendly
- They have solid credentials
With that in mind, here are five ways to find and choose a doctor:
1. If you have health insurance, start there. You want to be sure to use doctors already affiliated with your insurance. These are called in-network providers. If you don’t already have a list of these providers, call your insurance company to get one. Using in-network providers will always save you the most money. If you choose to go outside it, you will either pay more for that care or not be covered at all. Use your insurance’s in-network list of providers to put together a short list of medical professionals you may need to see. If you don’t have medical insurance, you can go online to put together the same kind of list.
2. From your list of names, stop to think about your specific needs. For example, if you’re newly pregnant, you will need both an OB-GYN and a pediatrician to care for both you and the child after he or she is born. If you think you might need a root canal, you might look at the choices for an endodontist. If your children will need braces, an orthodontist should be on your short list. In general, though, you will need at least a family practice doctor and general practice dentist to get started. If insurance covers eyeglasses and eye exams, look at optometrists, too. Here is a short list of common specialists and what they do:
- Family Practice for ongoing care of the whole family
- Pediatrician for infants and children up to age 18
- General Practice for all patients
- OB-GYN for childbirth and women’s health care
There are many specialists, too, such an endocrinologists for hormonal problems and diabetes, rheumatologists for joint problems and cardiologists for heart conditions. Specialists typically receive years of additional training beyond medical school.
There are dental specialties, too:
- Endodontist for root canals and related care
- Orthodontist for corrective problems like braces
- Periodontist for gum disease
- Oral surgeon for extractions and implants
- General dentist for preventive care, tooth whitening and cavities
3. The next step is to take your list of possible medical professionals and start asking around. Ask family, friends, neighbors or co-workers if they know anything about them. You can ask local pharmacists, too. Go online and check the names out. There are a number of online services that give you vital information on doctors and dentists. You can find out where they went to school and when they graduated, which will give you an approximate age. You can find out their hours, specialty if they have one and whether they are board-certified. You can find out what medical associations they belong to. There will also often be patient ratings and comments left by actual patients. These can be most helpful.
4. Your time is important, so find out where the office is and what hours and days they have. Make sure these factors work with your schedule. Some doctors may have evening and Saturday hours. If this important to you, find out if anyone on your list can accommodate you.
5. This is the last step! Plan a visit. Talk to the staff members. Are they friendly? Are phones answered promptly? Is the waiting area clean and comfortable? What is the average waiting time? What about the cancellation policy? What are the arrangements for emergency care? Take a list of questions with you so you don’t forget any of them.
It’s worth a bit of your time to find a doctor you can trust and stay with for many years to come.