How to Find a Good Doctor

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Tips for Picking a Doctor You Can Trust

Tired of feeling like just another patient every time you go to the doctor? It's not easy to find a care provider who gives you the attention and quality of care you expect. After all, those insurance premiums and copays aren't cheap. You want that investment to go toward a knowledgeable doctor who spends time answering your questions and helping you make the best health decisions possible.

Insurance Restrictions

You don't want to be restricted in your physician choices, but you may find yourself somewhat limited based on your health insurance. Some policies and carriers have preferred providers you must choose from to get your full benefits. Check with your health insurance carrier to determine restrictions on providers you can see. Your policy might be limited to doctors associated with a particular hospital, for example. Once you narrow down some options, check the preferred provider list to make sure your favorites make the cut.

Where to Find Suggestions

Sure, you can do an internet search for health care providers in your area. But you don't really know anything about those providers. You might as well draw a random name out of a hat.

Instead, start with people you know when looking for recommendations. A simple request for recommendations on Facebook should net quite a few suggestions. People are usually more than willing to share their opinions, both good and bad. You can create a short list of good potential candidates based on the feedback. You may find a few names you want to avoid, too. Don't be afraid to follow up with questions. What did they like about the doctor? What did they not like? How is the office environment? Does the doctor give each patient time and attention?

If you're looking for a specialist, ask your current care provider for referrals. If you're planning a pregnancy, you might ask your family doctor for obstetrician recommendations. Having trouble with your sinuses? Ask your doctor to refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist.

Narrowing Down the Options

Depending on how many people you ask, you may get quite a substantial list of potential doctors. You need a set of criteria to evaluate each of the options. Think about the things that are important to you. Some criteria may be more important than others. For example, you want your doctor to have a similar care philosophy as you. Others are nice, but not essential, such as a location close to your home or office.

Consider these criteria:

  • Proximity to your home
  • Philosophy of medical care
  • Willingness to listen to your concerns and preferences
  • Medical training and experience
  • Specialty area
  • Office hours and availability on evenings or weekends
  • Handling of acute care visits for sickness or minor injuries
  • Affiliation with hospitals in the area
  • Whether the doctor is accepting new patients
  • Other doctors in the practice if the doctors sometimes cover for one another
  • Cancellation policy

You should also consider factors specific to your situation. If English is not your first language, you might prefer someone who speaks your native language. If you or your child has a specific medical condition, you want someone with experience treating it.

Meeting Your Choices

Sometimes you just need to meet a doctor face-to-face before you can decide if he or she is a good match. Pay attention to the check-in process, friendliness and helpfulness of the staff, timeliness of your appointment, and how much time and attention you get from the nurse and doctor. Do they listen to your concerns and answer your questions fully? Do you feel rushed? Do you feel comfortable? You may get a gut feeling either way. Trust what you feel. If the doctor doesn't seem to be a good fit for you, check out other options.

Special Considerations for Choosing a Prenatal Care Provider

If you're an expectant mother, you need a prenatal care provider who listens to your concerns and supports your birthing decisions. Specific preferences, such as laboring in a tub, freedom to move around while laboring, avoiding episiotomies and trying a vaginal delivery after a C-section, are met with differing opinions from care providers. Decide what is important to you regarding the birth, and make sure you find a provider who supports those decisions.

Where you deliver is another factor in choosing your care provider. Doctors deliver babies at particular hospitals. If the delivery location is more important than the doctor, narrow down your search to doctors with privileges at that facility.

Special Considerations for Choosing a Pediatrician

You trust your pediatrician to be your partner in keeping your child healthy and spotting any problems early. Choose someone who makes you feel comfortable and who supports your parenting preferences on decisions such as vaccinations, circumcisions and breastfeeding versus bottle feeding. Look at his or her availability. How far out do you need to schedule appointments? Can you get same-day appointments for acute care? Will your child always see the same doctor, or do you get shuffled to other doctors in the practice? Developing a relationship with a pediatrician that both you and your child trust allows for better care.