At some point you will need to find a new doctor. Whether it’s due to a move, a disagreement with your current doctor or the desire to find a doctor with a different area of expertise, we all want a doctor we trust.
While finding a new doctor can take some time and research on your part, it’s an important investment of your time. Your doctor will be helping you to make informed decisions about your health care and the care of your family.
Step One –Create a list of potential doctors
It’s always a good starting place to talk with friends, family members and other people you trust to get their recommendations. It’s also important to recognize that your friends or family, may have limits on who they can see due to their insurance coverage.
Another great option is to ask a trusted healthcare provider who they might recommend. A good question to ask might be, “If you needed this procedure, who would you go see?”
There are also numerous online sources to help you find a new doctor. Consider checking out sites like betterdoctor.com, docboard.org, healthgrades.com or zocdoc.com. Each site has their own pluses and minuses, it’s about finding a site that’s a good fit for you.
If your healthcare insurance is a consideration, verify potential providers in your network directory before you make an appointment with a new office.
Step Two- Verify Information
Hopefully you have a list of potential doctors that fit within your parameters. Now it’s time to do a little research. Here are 6 things to take into consideration:
Verify that your doctor is board certified, which in essence means they have completed competency standards for their designation. You can find that information on the American Board of Medical Specialties website or The American Board of Internal Medicine. You can also check your state’s department of health website.
What Hospital Is Your Doctor Affiliated With?
If you have a doctor you really like, verify what hospitals he is affiliated with. You also want to verify if they are in your network of providers. Otherwise your doctor may not be able to care for you if you are hospitalized.
In addition some hospitals employ doctors who provide in patient care. Again, this may mean your doctor of choice, may not be the one who cares for you if you are hospitalized.
Is Your Doctor Paid by Big Pharma?
Many doctors have “relationships” with medical device or drug companies. In essence they are paid for lectures, research fees, free meals, travel or kickbacks for product referrals. This can be a true conflict of interest. You want a doctor who recommends something to you because it is the best option for you, not because they have the opportunity for financial gain.
Sanctions can include reprimand, restriction, suspension, probation or other disciplinary actions. Before working with any doctor, you want to be sure that he or she has not been sanctioned for any type of misconduct. This can also include neglect, fraud, drug or alcohol abuse.
A doctor is not required to notify you of any discipline they may have received. To determine this information you would need to look them up on your state medical board site. You can find a directory of state medical boards on the website of the Federation of State Medical Boards.
Doctor visits are never cheap, even with insurance. Call the office to find out if they require insurance, what insurance they accept and what forms of payment they accept. You can also inquire about additional fees for lab work, if it’s done on site or elsewhere.
Location & Hours
It’s important to know office hours and the ability to schedule same day appointments. I always like to inquire about how many open appointments are scheduled for urgent same day appointments. Are there weekend or after hours appointments available or is urgent care or the ER your only option.
Step 3- Interview your Doc
You’ve narrowed your list and you are ready to interview some new prospective doctors. It’s time to pay attention and take notes. Note how easy it was to make an appointment. Was the staff friendly and considerate? How long did you have to wait to see the doctor? Was the waiting area divided for sick and healthy patients? Is the waiting area clean and well kept? Is there a play area for children?
I like to remind people that they are hiring the doctor. You are paying them for their opinion. Pay attention to your doctor to get an idea of who he/she really is. Is the doctor making eye contact with you? Is he listening? Are your questions answered or dismissed? Are the answers explained in a way you can understand? Is he interrupting you to diagnose the problem without completely hearing you out? Is he willing to work with you? Does he offer multiple options or suggestions for the circumstances?
The answers to these questions and your observation of the surroundings are insights into the type of care you can expect to receive.
Are you a good patient?
The doctor patient relationship should be one of trust and openness. It’s not all on the doctor, you need to be a good patient. This means:
Be prepared for your visit. Be clear about your concerns and your needs.
Listen and answer questions directly and honestly.
Be actively engaged in the visit. Have a list of concerns and questions prepared. Bring a notepad with you to jot down any information, suggestions or comments for your reference later.
Be a good listener. If you’re unsure of something that was said, ask the doctor to repeat it or explain it in layman’s terms.
If tests are prescribed its okay to ask what the concern is for the test, what to expect, how long results take, what the follow up plan is, etc.
The same is true for prescriptions. Ask what the purpose is, how it works, side effects, if there are other options and when you should expect to see results.
Remember this is your time, your money, your body, your health. You have the right to say I need to think about it, I need more information or no thank you if it’s something you simply aren’t sure about.
If it’s something serious, you certainly have the right to a 2nd, 3rd or 4th opinion if you need it.
Finding a doctor can be a time consuming effort, and you are worth the effort. By listening to recommendations and doing your own research, you can find a doctor, who is a good fit for you and your family.
You may need to have a few visits with your doctor before your decision is proven right or wrong. Don’t be afraid to start over if it doesn’t work out the first time. Finding a doctor who truly listens to you, is willing to get to the root cause of a problem, rather than prescribe a quick fix is worth your time.