Finding the right doctor is serious business. A good doctor-patient relationship encourages open communication, which is crucial to getting the best care.
Most likely, you're looking at several resources to help you make a decision. To keep from feeling overwhelmed by the process, here are the most important things to consider.
Asking around is useful - up to a point
Most everyone starts by asking friends, family or coworkers for advice. Your acquaintances can tell you about a doctor's personality or if there's usually a long wait.
But unless they're medical experts themselves, chances are, people you know aren't qualified to determine whether a doctor has the necessary expertise your situation requires.
Online reviews aren't verified
Anonymous web reviews simply aren't trustworthy. Is there a hidden agenda or financial motive? Are these people really qualified to evaluate a doctor? Why should you trust what they have to say? Remember, anyone can write a review.
US News & World Report
says, "Proceed with caution. A typical primary care provider may have several thousand patients, and very few doctors on such sites are rated by more than a tiny handful."
Read the article here.
Search engines like Google provide basic information only
A list of locations and office hours is useful, but it can't tell you if a doctor is right for you.
Do you need a primary care doctor or a specialist?
A primary care doctor oversees your general health on a regular basis, and handles basics like check-ups and prescription updates.
A specialist has advanced training and skills for specific or serious concerns. Example: a heart surgeon for valve replacement, an endocrinologist for people with diabetes.
If you need a primary care doctor:
- Focus on the basics (hours, location, time spent with patients), but don't stop there.
- Consider which characteristics make you or your family feel completely comfortable discussing personal health questions. For instance, would you prefer a female doctor? Do you want someone who speaks a particular language?
- If you or your loved ones have specific health conditions, you need a doctor who is experienced at diagnosing and treating those particular ailments.
If you need a specialist:
- Focus on the specific conditions or diseases in which a doctor has specialized. Include your symptoms and conditions in your search.
- Relevant experience is key. The more familiarity a doctor has with cases like yours, the better the outcome is likely to be.
- Look at the doctor's certifications. A doctor who is board-certified has demonstrated mastery of a specific medical specialty.
- A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine described a strong relationship between board certification and the quality of care patients receive.
- Review each doctor's education and schooling. Knowing which medical school a doctor has attended won't necessarily be the deciding factor in your evaluation of whether that doctor is right for you. However, it can give you insight into a doctor's background and training. You can see top-ranked medical schools here.
Questions to ask:
- How often do you see patients with the same symptoms I have?
- How many years of relevant experience do you have, considering my needs?
- How many times have you performed this kind of treatment plan or operation?
- What's your success rate?
- How often do your patients have relapses?
- Where did you go to medical school?
- Be flexible about distance. When it comes to finding a doctor who's right for you, it may be worth the drive.
- Think about the possibility of being hospitalized someday. If you need to be admitted now or in the future, consider a doctor who is part of a hospital network known for high quality outcomes.
1-800-DOCTORS was created with all of this in mind
- We encourage you to get all the information you need to make an informed decision. At 1-800-DOCTORS, our unique online tools let you filter your search by the factors you consider to be the most important. This can include symptoms, conditions or disease, or a doctor's gender and language.
- If you don't know which type of doctor you need to see, our local 1-800-DOCTORS Call Advisors help you narrow your search by directing you to the type of doctor or specialist suited to treating your specific healthcare issues.
- Our local Call Advisors can get you in to see a doctor quickly, often much sooner than if you made the appointment yourself. This is one of the key reasons to go through a 1-800-DOCTORS Call Advisor, especially when you consider how hard it can be to get on the schedule promptly, especially when you're a new patient.
- Of course, your Call Advisor will be happy to connect you immediately if you'd like to speak directly with a doctor's office.
- By relying on 1-800-DOCTORS, you can avoid being forced to take time during the day to call several doctors' offices to ask which insurance they accept, whether or not you're covered and when they can fit you in. Why risk any delay in finding a doctor and scheduling an appointment? With 1-800-DOCTORS, you can find out what you need to know right away.
- If you don't understand what type of insurance you have, our 1-800-DOCTORS Call Advisors will explain your coverage and confirm that your insurance is accepted by the doctor before making an appointment.
- With 1-800-DOCTORS, finding the right doctor is simple, personal and free.