Choosing a Doctor
Choosing a doctor is one of the most important decisions anyone can make. The best time to make that decision is while you are still healthy and have time to really think about all your choices. If you have no doctor or are thinking of changing doctors, the following ideas may help you find a doctor who is right for you.
What Should You Look for in a Doctor?
Of course you want a doctor who is well trained and competent. A doctor who knows you well may be better able to help you prevent some health problems and manage those that do come up. In choosing a doctor some other things to think about are:
A good first step is to make a list of the things that matter most to you. Then, go back over your list and rank them in order of importance.
What Type of Doctor?
For your primary care doctor, you might want a general or family practitioner, an internist, or a geriatrician.
How Does Managed Care Affect Your Choice of Doctors?
Most people age 65 and older are eligible for Medicare hospital insurance (Part A). They also can enroll in Medicare medical insurance (Part B) for a monthly fee. Medicare medical insurance helps pay for visits to the doctor. It also covers many other medical services and supplies not covered by Medicare’s Part A.
Finding a New Doctor
Once you have a sense of what you want in a doctor, ask people you know about doctors they use and like. Friends, coworkers, and other health professionals may be helpful. You can make it easy for them to tell you about the doctors they like by asking questions, such as, “What do you like about Dr. Smith?”
A doctor whose name comes up often might be a strong possibility as a choice. It may help to have several names to choose from in case the doctor you select is not taking new patients or does not take part in your health insurance plan.
If you belong to a managed care plan, you can get a list of doctors from the plan’s membership services office. Your choices will be limited to those doctors who are part of the plan.
If you need more help finding names of doctors, contact your hospital of choice, local medical society, local physician referral services, nearby medical schools, or university medical centers in your area.
How Do You Make an Informed Choice?
Once you have chosen two or three doctors, call their offices. The office staff can give you information about the doctor’s education and training. They also can tell you about office policies, standard insurance the office takes, payment methods, and the doctor’s hospital admitting privileges.
You may want to make an appointment just to talk with a doctor before deciding on a final choice. Make sure that she or he knows that you are trying to decide on a doctor. You likely will be charged for such a visit; your insurance company may not pay for it.
Make a list of questions you want to ask the doctor. For example:
After the meeting, ask yourself if you felt comfortable and confident with this doctor. Were you at ease asking questions? Did the doctor clearly answer your questions? If you are not sure, schedule a visit with one of the other doctors on your list.
The First Appointment
After choosing a doctor, make your first medical appointment. During this visit, the doctor will probably take a medical history and ask questions about your health. There may be questions about the health of your family members as well. The doctor also will examine you. Be sure to bring your past medical records (or have them sent). Also bring all of the medicines you take with you to show the doctor. Include both prescription and over-the counter drugs, even vitamins, supplements, and eye drops. Make a list of any drug allergies or serious drug reactions you’ve had. During this visit take time to ask any questions you may still have about the doctor and the practice.
Once you have found a doctor you like, your job is not finished. A good doctor-patient relationship is a partnership. Both you and your doctor need to work together to solve your medical problems and maintain your good health. Finding a medical practice that is well suited to your needs is an important first step. Good communication with the doctor and the office staff is the key.
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