January 29, 2020
Whether you've recently enrolled in a new health insurance plan, moved away and need to find a new doctor, or you just feel like your current doctor isn't meeting your needs anymore, on occasion it's necessary to switch doctors.
It’s important that you share a level of trust and comfort with your new doctor so a thorough vetting process is crucial. Not sure how to begin? Here are some important steps to take.
Primary care doctors usually fall into three categories: family practice physicians who practice general medicine and treat patients of all ages, internal medicine physicians who work mostly with adults and specialize in disease management, and general practice physicians who treat patients of any age. Older patients may also consider choosing a geriatrician, who specializes in conditions related to aging.
It’s always a good idea to ask for recommendations from friends and family and look up any online ratings and reviews available on possible candidates. You do it easily for restaurants and car mechanics, so why not for your doctor?
Board certifications are a great way to verify a doctor’s particular skillset and experience. The American Board of Medical Specialties’ Certification Matters database can help you verify board certifications and search for physicians based on particular specialty experience. Examples of board certifications include geriatrics, gynecology and orthopedics. You can also research physicians using the Physician Compare tool on medicare.gov.
Location, location, location. It really does matter. No matter how great a doctor is, if you never go because his or her office isn’t convenient, then what’s the point? Map out the best routes between your home and work and the office location to be sure that you will have no problems traveling there.
Be sure to verify that your doctor participates with your insurance plan. Avoid unexpected charges by confirming coverage and any co-pays you will be responsible for before your first appointment.
If you become seriously ill or need surgery, you many need to spend time in the hospital. For this reason, it’s important to know a doctor’s hospital affiliations. How convenient is the hospital to where you live? What is its reputation? How comfortable are you being admitted there?
Once you have done some initial research, create a list of candidates that you wish to meet with in person. It’s always best, when possible, to set up an initial consultation with at least a few physicians before making any final decisions.
Call their offices and ask for a new patient appointment. How long is the wait time for an appointment? Is the staff friendly and helpful?
Once you are at your appointment, you will be able to get an even better feel for everything. Are the waiting rooms clean and comfortable? Is the office up-to-date on all the newest technologies? How are you treated while you are there, by both the doctor and his or her staff?
Important questions to ask while you are at this first appointment include:
• Can you email the doctor directly?
• Can you schedule appointments online?
• Are night and weekend appointments available?
• How easy is to get prescription refills and test results?
When it comes down to your final decision, don’t be afraid to trust your gut. Ask yourself, were you treated with respect during your visit and any phone calls? How much time did the doctor actually spend with you? Did he or she really listen to you and encourage you to ask questions? Were things explained in a way that you could understand? Is the doctor sensitive to any cultural or religious issues that might influence how you interact with each other? If anything about your experience with a doctor makes you feel uncomfortable, keep looking until you find a better match.
According to a Deloitte 2018 Survey of U.S. Consumers, the most important factors in choosing a new doctor are convenience, cost and reputation, but only you can decide which criteria are the deal-breakers. Remember, you are in the driver’s seat of this decision-making process.