How to Find the Right Doctor
How to Find the Right Doctor
There are plenty of doctors under the sun. How do you know which doctor is right for you? After all, finding the right doctor can be one of the most important health decisions you’ll make. Your primary care doctor is your partner and trusted advisor for all of your health care needs. Starting a relationship with a doctor who is right for you can help you make the right decisions for a lifetime of good health.
Here are a few tried and true tips to help you find a doctor that you can partner with to take care of one of the most important things in your life – your health.
Identify what kind of doctor you need
Start with the basics. Ask yourself why you are going to the doctor. Are you worried about your health? Do you have a chronic disease like diabetes or COPD? Do you simply want to start a relationship with a doctor who can help you stay as healthy as possible? These are relevant questions that you should ask yourself and answer honestly. Your answers will help guide your decision.
Once you’ve determined “why” you need a doctor you can really narrow down your search. For instance, an Internal Medicine doctor can help you manage your chronic illness so you can lead a happier, healthy life. However, if you consider yourself somewhat healthy, you may want to look for a Family Practice doctor. Both doctors can guide you to better health. But it really depends on your needs.
Tap into your networks
There are two tried and true networks that you should always go to – Your social network and your health plan network.
Start by asking a friend or family member if they know of any good doctors. It’s a safe bet that someone you trust will recommend one. But, keep in mind that your mother’s doctor may not be the best fit for you. To help you decide, be sure to ask them what they like and don’t like about their doctor. This can help uncover the really good from the really bad. Another important network is your health plan. All health insurance plans can tell you about the doctors in their network. In most instances, you’ll want to be sure your new doctor is in your health plan’s network. Otherwise you’ll likely pay more out of pocket that you want. Today, most health plans provide information online to help customers compare doctors based on cost, quality and health outcomes. This can include cost estimates for common types of office visits and procedures, and information about the number of times a doctor has performed a particular procedure.
Do a “background check”
By doing a little research you can learn a lot about a doctor’s training and credentials. All doctors are required to earn a degree from an accredited medical school, either foreign or domestic trained. But what’s most important is learning where they practiced their residency. A residency program is where doctors apply the knowledge they learned while in medical school in a hands-on accredited, medical residency program. Bottom line, it’s where they really start to hone their skills.
All doctors must be licensed in the state in which they practice. State licensing alone does not necessarily mean a doctor is highly qualified in a specialty. So how can you tell if a doctor is highly qualified? Check for board certification in their specialty. Board certification is a voluntary accreditation that many doctors seek after they have a few years of experience under their belts. In most instances doctors who receive board certification are required to pass a written exam and in some cases, an oral exam.
Do an internet search. If they have a blog or online published material, this is another great way to get to know them.
Location, location, location!
In today’s world convenience is king. With our busy lives, it’s important that your doctor’s office is close by when you need it. So, consider a doctor that is close to your home or place of work. You probably don’t want to go out of your way to visit the doctor. For instance, consider finding a doctor that is on the way home from work. Also, check to see if the doctor belongs to a practice with a patient portal so you can communicate with them online. A patient portal is a valuable tool that gives you the power to review your medical records, lab results, or refill prescriptions from a computer or mobile device. And, you can usually email your doctor, schedule appointments and even receive appointment reminders. Another thing to think about is general appearance of the doctor’s office. Is it clean and appealing to the eye? Or, is it old and outdated? Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But, a clean and well cared for office can say a lot about a doctor’s pride in his or her work. See if the doctor you are considering has a virtual tour, so you can view the office from the convenience of your home computer or mobile device. Here’s a sample of Cigna Medical Group’s virtual tour.
Go with your gut.
Once you’ve narrowed down your decision, schedule an appointment with the doctor. Be sure to come prepared with your current prescriptions and health information. When you arrive, observe the vibe in the office. Did you like the staff? Were they friendly and welcoming? When you visit the doctor, don’t be afraid to ask probing questions. Did you feel comfortable talking with the doctor about your health concerns? Was the doctor forthcoming with information? And, most importantly, did you trust the doctor?
Being mindful of these five simple steps will help you find a doctor you that you can trust for a lifetime.
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