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How do find a Doctor
If you know a doctor, nurse, or healthcare professional, ask for the names of doctors or practices in your area whom they like and trust. That can be more insightful than recommendations from friends or family. You should also consider what kind of doctor you want. Someone who can care for your whole family? Someone who focuses on women or older people (see below)? Here are some other things to consider as you search for Dr. Right:
- Check your insurance: Use your insurer’s directory or search on its website for doctors in your network. Because doctors often add or drop plans, call the office to verify that the doctor still accepts your insurance.
- Consider hospital affiliation: Your choice of doctor can determine which hospital you go to, if needed, so find out where the doctor has admitting privileges. Then use our hospital ratings to see how that facility compares with other hospitals in your area.
- Look for board certification: Being certified through the American Board of Medical Specialties means a doctor has earned a medical degree from a qualified medical school, completed three to seven years of accredited residency training, is licensed by a state medical board, and has passed one or more exams administered by a member of the ABMS. To maintain the certification, a doctor is expected to participate in continuing education. To see whether a doctor is certified, go to certificationmatters.org.
- Watch out for red flags: They include malpractice claims and disciplinary actions. Even good doctors can get sued once or twice, but “you certainly don’t want someone who has had a lot of malpractice claims,” Avitzur says. Common reasons for being disciplined include substance abuse and inappropriate sexual behavior, though it can be hard to know exactly why a doctor was sanctioned. Most states let doctors practice while they receive treatment.
- Consider compatibility: More than half of Americans focus on personality and relationship when choosing a physician, according to a 2014 survey from The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (Just 29 percent said the delivery of care or the patient’s health outcome was most crucial.) Use your first visit as a litmus test. Some factors to consider: Does the doctor listen to you without interrupting? Does she fully answer your questions? Does she explain your diagnosis and treatment, and specify a date for a follow-up visit?
- Ask about drug reps: Many doctors let representatives from pharmaceutical companies into their offices to pitch their drugs. That not only takes up a lot of the doctor’s time but also may inappropriately influence his choice of drugs. “That can get patients started on a brand-name medication that may be more expensive or may not be the best one for them,” Peter said. Moreover, a doctor’s attitude toward drug reps can indicate how committed he is to practicing according to the best evidence, not pressures from industry.
- Find out about office policies: Ask how long it takes to make an appointment for a routine visit (it should be less than a week), whether they offer same-day appointments, and how long patients are kept in the waiting room. Once you’re a patient, if the reality doesn’t meet your expectations, consider shopping around. That’s important not only to save you time but also for your health. In practices that waste patients’ time, research shows that “patients are less likely to follow up on recommendations to prevent or manage chronic conditions,” said L. Gordon Moore, M.D., chief medical officer at Treo Solutions, a data analytics firm.
- Scrutinize the staff: They are the people who will schedule your appointments, check you in and out, give the doctor your messages, and address insurance concerns. Look for a staff that’s friendly, efficient, and respectful. “Health care is a team sport,” said Lois Margaret Nora, M.D., J.D., and president and CEO of the American Board of Medical Specialties. “People should expect quality in their doctor and the system in which the physician practices.”