Choosing the doctor is a decision that will affect you and your family for months, even years. It’s something you should not take lightly but with an informed and deliberate approach to finding a doctor who is right for you and your loved ones. “Most of us do more research and spend more time figuring out which refrigerator to buy, rather than what doctor we want to take care of us.”
1. Ask your health plan for a copy of their most recent provider directory.
2. Find out which doctors are available to you. Your particular insurance plan may require that you choose from a specific list of physicians for all of your insurance-covered medical care. Many policies require that you select a primary care physician (PCP) from their list. The PCP is then responsible for your care and will make the necessary referrals to specialists or other health professionals.
3. Most of your medical care will likely come from physicians who can address a wide range of medical needs that you and your family might have. There are many types of doctors. You might choose a Family Practitioner, an Internist, a Geriatrician, an Obstetrician/Gynecologist, or a Pediatrician. Family Practitioners provide health care to all family members, regardless of age. An Internist is a doctor for adults, age 18 and older. Some Internists take additional training and become more specialized; for example, Cardiologists are Internists who specialize in diseases of the heart. Geriatricians specialize in the care for older adults; they first train in Family Practice or Internal Medicine and then undergo additional training in caring for older people. Obstetrician/Gynecologists are specialists in Obstetrics and Gynecology (most often referred to as OB/GYN). They have training in the full range of reproductive issues for women, childbirth to menopause.
4. What are the physicians’ credentials? Is the physician board certified?
Board certification is another way to tell you about a doctor’s expertise Doctors who are board certified have had training after medical school and have passed an exam certifying them as specialists in certain fields of medicine.
5. Remember that choosing a doctor also means choosing a hospital. If you prefer a particular hospital, check to be sure that your physician of choice can admit patients to preferred hospital.
6. You may want to ask friends, family members or co-workers to recommend physicians they are pleased with. Ask why they like a particular doctor. See if these reasons are important to you. Ask if they were treated with dignity and respect. Did the doctor answer all their questions, or did they feel rushed or dismissed? The relationship with your doctor is one of the most intimate that you have in life, you should be able to discuss the most private issues or problems with him or her. You should feel that your doctor is your ally.
7. Ideally, you should meet the physician and discuss your health concerns
while you are well. The doctor’s office manager or other front desk staff can provide answers to the following questions: Where did the doctor go to school? Where did she or he intern? Is the doctor board certified in his or her area of specialization? You can also research your doctor on the internet. With the amount of information available online you’ll be far better prepared before that first meeting with your new doctor.
8. How does the office operate? A doctor’s office staff can be a positive or negative reflection upon the physician. The way the staff treats patients is often an indication of how a doctor will treat the patient. While your relationship with your doctor is of paramount importance in selecting a physician you should also look for an office with friendly, knowledgeable and courteous staff.
9. Inquire about the doctor’s availability: Ask about the doctor’s office hours. Does she/he offer evening, weekend and holiday hours? Is the physicians’ office conveniently located near your home or place of business?
10. In May 2018, The Joint Commission on Accreditation Healthcare Organization (JCAHO) revamped the national campaign called “SPEAK UP”. The campaign seeks to encourage patients to take an active role in their healthcare by becoming involved and informed participants AARP agrees with the advice JCAHO gives patients: Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. If you are unsure about the nature of your illness and the best treatment, consult with one of two additional specialists .The more information you have about options available to you, the more confident you will be in the decisions made.
REMEMBER, ONCE YOU HAVE FOUND A DOCTOR YOU ARE HAPPY WITH, YOUR JOB IS NOT FINISHED. A GOOD DOCTOR-PATIENT RELATIONSHIP IS A PARTNERSHIP, WITH BOTH YOU AND YOUR DOCTOR WORKING TOGETHER TO SOLVE MEDICAL PROBLEMS AND MAINTAIN GOOD HEALTH.