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 and your family may be one of the most important decisions you make. The doctor-patient relationship should be a partnership that involves open, honest communication. You should work together with your doctor to make the best healthcare decisions for you and your family.
What to ask
Before looking for a physician, first think about what you want and need.
Do you need a primary care doctor who can provide care for you and your children?
Or would separate physicians for the adults and for the children be better?
Do you have special health needs that should to be addressed?
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?
Where should your doctor’s office be located?
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, 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. These services are designed to match your needs and preferences with doctors in your area. 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
Area(s) of expertise or interest
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.
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. Remember that the office staff and nurses play an important role in your overall satisfaction with your healthcare.
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 healthcare advice you’re given. Trust your instinct when choosing a new physician.
For a free, confidential physician referral, call 1-888-TENET-4U or go to the "Find a Physician" tab on our website.