How to Choose the Right Doctor

Choosing a doctor is an important decision that can impact your health and your life. Picking the right doctor may seem overwhelming since there are many factors to take into consideration. Here are some guidelines to put you on the right track:

Check your insurance
The type of health insurance you have may limit your list of potential doctors. Your plan may require that you find a primary care provider who will be responsible for your overall health. Make sure your insurance will cover your medical costs and the doctor will accept your insurance plan before you make your first appointment. You will have to pay more if you go with a doctor who does not participate in your insurance plan. When you are further along in the process, see if the doctor’s office will file your insurance claims or if you will have to pay upfront and file the claims yourself.

Ask around
Consult the people you trust, like your friends and family members to see if there are any practitioners they recommend. If you are already seeing a doctor that you feel comfortable  with, but you need to change (due to a move or retirement), you can ask him or her for suggestions. You can also turn to the many free online resources, including reviews, to help you find healthcare professionals in your area.

Know what you want
Are you looking for an internist who handles older adults or a family doctor who can treat all of the members of your household? Maybe you want to see a cardiologist because you have a history of heart disease? What you want out of your doctor will influence your decision. Decide how big of a factor age, sex and race will play in your selection. Some women feel more comfortable seeing a female doctor. You might prefer to see an older doctor who has racked up years of experience instead of someone fresh out of medical school. Decide if you would rather have a doctor who is part of a practice.

If you want to find a doctor to treat a specific condition, check if they have the proper board certification to handle your case. The American Medical Association’s Doctor Finder can help you with this.

Ask questions
Once you have narrowed down your list, the National Institute on Aging advises calling the different offices and getting more information. Ask how long a typical visit takes, and who is available if the primary doctor is out of town or unavailable. You can also ask the office staff if the doctor sees many patients with similar health problems. See what hospital the doctor is associated with, and ask if X-rays and laboratory work is usually done in the office.

Go with your gut
Don’t be afraid to shop around for a doctor and not go with the first one you see. You will only end up shortchanging yourself if you settle for a doctor with whom you do not feel completely comfortable. Make sure your doctor is someone you can trust. It is also important that his or her office is conveniently located and the hours are compatible with your schedule. You want to find someone who will take good care of you and help you lead a long, healthy life.