There are various reasons you might need to find a new doctor. Maybe you just started a new job, and you’re now enrolled in a brand new health insurance plan. Perhaps your current doctor is retiring, or you’ve moved to a new neighborhood where it’s inconvenient to see your old doctor. Or perhaps you’re a young adult who has now outgrown the pediatrician who used to treat your childhood illnesses. Whatever your reason for seeking out a new doctor, it can be a stressful and overwhelming situation. Read on if you’re in need of some insights on how to choose the right doctor.
1. Think About Which Type of Doctor Will Best Meet Your Needs.
The first thing to understand is that doctors can be either general practitioners or specialists. Many health insurance plans require their customers to choose a generalist primary care physician to oversee their overall care. A primary care physician will refer their patients to specialist doctors when a particular situation warrants it. Primary care physicians tend to fall into several categories of practice including general practice, family practice, internal medicine or pediatrics. Alternatively, some women choose an obstetrician gynecologist (OB/GYN) as their primary care physician.
Specialists are the doctors you would go to if you need specialized care – for example, you’d most likely need to see a vascular surgeon if you have hardened arteries.
2. Make Sure Your Doctor and Your Health Insurance Plan Are Compatible.
If you have a health insurance plan, your plan might require you to only see doctors within a particular network. If you’re choosing a new doctor because you’re newly employed, your choice of doctors is likely to be influenced by the health insurance plan that is available to you through your employer.
If there’s only one health insurance plan your employer offers, the most straightforward approach may be to start your search for a doctor by asking your colleagues at work for recommendations. You might also wish to speak with your old doctor to ask if s/he would be able to refer you to a doctor from the new network you’ll be working with under your new employer. If both of those approaches prove to be fruitless, another option would be to search on your new insurer’s website.
If you’re enrolling in a popular health insurance plan, it can sometimes be a challenge to even find an in-network doctor who is accepting new patients. You could start by creating a list of possible doctors to work with by consulting your insurer’s website, calling each doctor’s office that’s listed and asking if that doctor is accepting new patients.
If your employer offers a choice of plans, the odds are a bit better that you may be able to choose a doctor first and then figure out which plan to enroll in that would allow you to see that doctor.
3. Verify Medical Credentials.
In the United States, licensure is the bare minimum requirement for a doctor. Ideally, you’ll want to work with a doctor who has gone above and beyond the minimum to become a board-certified doctor. Board certification demonstrates that a doctor is committed to delivering a higher level of patient care. Before you choose a doctor, you’ll want to verify whether the doctor is board certified in addition to being licensed.
4. Check Patient Reviews and Testimonials.
A doctor’s credentials are important, but they don’t tell you anything about his or her bedside manner, personality or level of empathy towards patients. If you aren’t relying on personal recommendations from friends, colleagues and family members to find your doctor, the next best thing is to seek out reviews and patient testimonials on social media and medical websites.
Aboutdoctor.net is a good starting place to find reviews and testimonials; it is a global medical directory that provides info on doctors worldwide. For example, if you’re thinking of booking a surgery with Dr. Najem in NSW, Australia, you can check to see if anyone has left a Dr Adam Najem review.
5. Research Possible Conflicts of Interest.
Conflicts of interest are rampant in the healthcare industry. A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) revealed that, in 2015, 48 percent of doctors in the United States had received financial incentives from pharmaceutical companies or medical device manufacturers.
There can be no doubt that the pharmaceutical industry has a vested interest in recruiting doctors to recommend medications and treatments they sell. However, it is in your best interest to avoid working with doctors who prescribe drugs and treatments that are incentivized by “Big Pharma” bribes. If your doctor is going to prescribe a medication for you, you want it to be because that medication is exactly what you need – not because the doctor is biased by financial incentives provided by a drug company.
There are a couple of resources you can use for researching such conflicts of interest:
- The Dollars for Docs database
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Open Payments disclosure program
It’s beneficial to check these resources to see what they reveal before you decide whether you’d like to work with a particular doctor.
6. Conduct a Sanctions Search.
If a doctor in the United States has a history of professional misconduct, including but not limited to substance abuse, fraud, patient neglect or medical negligence, s/he may have been sanctioned by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on behalf of the US Department of Health and Human Services. There are several resources you can use for checking on whether your doctor has recently been sanctioned:
- List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE)
- The Fraud and Abuse Control Information Systems (FACIS)
- And your state’s medical board
All this checking might seem like a lot of work; but do keep in mind that your choice of doctors is likely to be one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. Your doctor will be one of the most significant future influences on your health and your life. You owe it to yourself to find the best doctor possible – and we hope this information will be helpful to you as you conduct your search.