How to choose the right doctor before you become a patient

There are many reasons why you might be currently looking for a new doctor. Maybe you've moved or perhaps your existing doctor might be retiring. If you need to locate a new doctor, the following ideas can make it easier for you to find one that is right for you.

Types of Primary Care Doctors

Your primary care physician is the doctor that you usually see for your general health problems. When choosing a new doctor, you need to decide if you want this doctor to be a general or family practitioner, an internist, or a geriatrician.

General practitioners treat a wide range of medical problems in people of all ages.

Family Physicians are similar to general practitioners but complete several years more training to become board certified and have experience to care for all family members, both young and old.

Internists are mainly doctors for adults. Some internists take additional training to become specialists. For example, a cardiologist is an internist who specializes in the heart and heart diseases.

Geriatricians care for older adults. A geriatrician is trained in family practice or internal medicine and has additional training in caring for older people.

Asking for Help with Your Search

Once you have a sense of what kind of doctor might be best for your specific needs, you may then ask some people that you trust, for example, friends, family, and coworkers, about doctors that they may use and like. You might ask questions such as:

● Do you know a good doctor?

● Would you recommend your doctor?

● What do you like about your doctor?

● How long does it take to get an appointment? If you need to, can you usually see your doctor right away—on the same day if you are ill and need immediate assistance?

In addition to talking to friends, family, and coworkers, you can talk with other health professionals that you see, for example, your heart doctor or the doctor you see for your lung problems, and then ask them for their recommendations. If your doctor is retiring or leaving their practice, you might ask if they have chosen a favorable replacement. You can then check with your insurance plan for a list of doctors in your area.

After speaking with all of the right people, check with the appropriate local resources, and then looking online, you should make a list of several names of doctors in case your first choice is not currently taking on new patients or does not actually participate in your specific health insurance plan.

Calling the Doctors on Your List

After you choose two or three doctors, then you should call their offices. The office staff can provide you with information about the doctor's education and training. They can also advise you about specific office policies, what insurance they take, if they file the insurance claims for you, what types of payment they accept, and the hospitals where the doctor actually attends to patients.

Other Helpful Questions

It might be helpful to learn about the doctor's experience treating older patients or people with a medical history similar to yours. Here are more questions you might want to ask the office staff:

● Does the doctor see many older patients?

● Does the doctor treat many patients with the same chronic health problem that I have (for example, diabetes or heart problems)?

● If I have to go to the hospital, will the doctor take care of me, or will a hospital doctor care for me?

After choosing a doctor, make your first appointment. It is during this first visit that you can assess and get to know the doctor and describe your particular needs.

After your first visit, think about if you felt comfortable and confident with this doctor. For example, were you at ease asking questions? Did the doctor clearly answer your questions? Were you treated with respect? Did you feel that your questions were considered thoughtfully? Did you feel the doctor hurried or did not address all your concerns? If you are still not sure the doctor is right for you, schedule a visit with one of the other doctors on your list.

Now you should make your choice. Choose both with your head and your heart.

You should always keep in mind that a good doctor-patient relationship is a partnership. Regular office visits and open communication with the doctor and office staff are important to maintaining this partnership, treating your medical problems effectively, and keeping you in good health.

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© 2020 by Lindsey Faucette, DO