The image of the old family doctor who treated the grandparents, parents and children has become a thing of the past. In today’s mobile society few people keep the same doctor throughout their lives. We move — across town, the state or the country. We change jobs and insurance plans which may mean changing doctors.
Choosing the right doctor for you is an important decision. The doctor-patient relationship should be a partnership that involves open, honest communication. You should work together with your doctor to make the best health care decisions for you.
What to ask
Before looking for a physician, think about what you want and need.
- If you’re looking for a primary care physician are you interested in a general physician (provides health care for a wide range of medical problems), internist (provides treatment for adults) or geriatrician (specializes in the care of older adults)?
- Do you have special health needs that should be addressed by a specialist?
- Are you looking for a doctor who takes a personal interest in patients or one with a more business-like approach?
- Do you prefer a male or female doctor?
- What age range should your doctor be in?
- Is the doctor’s office easy for you to get to?
Where to look
Once you decide what’s important to you in choosing a doctor, then you’ll be ready to begin your search. If you’re moving to a new area or in need of a specialist, you might want to ask your current doctor for recommendations. Some people rely on the advice of friends or family members when choosing a new doctor. However, you should find out why a specific doctor is recommended since each of us has different needs and preferences.
Today many hospitals offer free physician referral services. By using a computer database, hospital referral services can match callers and doctors based on several criteria including area of specialization, office locations, health insurance, physician age and board certifications.
Many managed care and other insurance plans limit the doctors you can see. Check with your insurance provider to get the most up-to-date provider list.
Narrow your search
Once you have the names of some physicians, it’s time to narrow your search. Find out more about the doctors on your list. You may want to ask about the following:
- Medical training (schools attended, residency programs, fellowships, etc.)
- Length of time in practice
- Hospital affiliations
- Area(s) of expertise or interest
- Board certification
You also should check with the state medical licensing board or the American Medical Association’s online service to see if any disciplinary action has been taken against these physicians. You also may want to use an online service line such as HealthGrades to find more information on physicians in your area.
To find out whether a doctor is board certified check with the American Board of Medical Specialties at www.certifieddoctor.org or by calling them at 1-800-776-2378.
How to decide
Next you should call the doctor’s office to see if that doctor is accepting new patients. Talk to the office staff to find out how long it takes to get an appointment. Ask questions about billing including whether the office will submit insurance forms for you. Find out who covers for the doctor and how emergency and weekend appointments are handled.
Schedule an initial visit with the doctor you have chosen. This should be a time to get to know the doctor and see if you feel comfortable with him or her. Be sure and make a list of any questions or concerns you have.
If your initial visit doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to try another doctor. Finding a doctor you feel comfortable with means you’re more likely to comply with the health care advice you’re given.
Centennial Medical Center is a 118-bed acute care facility located at Highway 121 and Coit Road in Frisco. For a free, confidential physician referral, click here or call 1-800-330-3819.