In 2018, Resolve to Find the Right Doctor for You

In 2018, Resolve to Find the Right Doctor for You

If you have a longtime relationship with your doctor, whether he or she be a primary care physician or specialist, you might be tempted to skip this article entirely—but don’t. For seniors specifically, being prepared for the unexpected is most important; you might find that your doctor retires, you must switch to a different health care plan that doesn’t cover care with your current physician or you might have a sudden health issue that requires a specialist.

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.

Before looking for a physician, think about what you want and need. For instance, if you’re looking for a primary care physician are you interested in a general physician who provides health care for a wide range of medical problems, or an internist who provides treatment for adults, or a geriatrician who specializes in the care of older adults?

Other considerations include any 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?

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.

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 things like medical training (schools attended, residency programs, fellowships, etc), or length of time in practice. Hospital affiliations and area(s) of expertise or interest are important as well as board or other certifications. 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 any physicians you are considering. You also may want to use an on-line 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 or by calling 1-800-776-2378.

You should call the doctor’s office to see if any doctor you are consider 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.

Then 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.