10 steps you need to consider when picking the right doctor.
STEP 1 Ask Around
Start by creating a list of potential doctors. Ask your family, friends, and other healthcare providers for recommendations. If you have a medical condition that requires specialty care, ask your primary care doctor to refer you to specialists who can work closely with your primary care doctor to coordinate your care. If you’re starting out without any referrals, or you’re looking for more options, search for doctors on Healthgrades.com.
STEP 2 Demand Expertise
Take time to research the doctors’ credentials and expertise. Look for a doctor who is board certified in the medical specialty that treats your condition. It tells you that the doctor has the necessary training, skills and experience to provide healthcare in their specialty. Also, confirm that the doctor is in good standing with state and federal agencies and that he or she has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You’ll find all this information on Healthgrades.com.
STEP 3 Know Your Degrees: MD & DO
Remember there are two types of fully qualified doctors: medical doctors (MDs) and osteopathic doctors (DOs). MDs practice traditional medicine focusing on treating symptoms, disease or injury with therapy, medications or surgery. In medical school, DOs learn osteopathic manipulative medicine, which is a hands-on method of diagnosis, emphasizing self-healing and wellness. But both types of doctors prescribe medication and perform surgery. The line between traditional medicine practiced by MDs and osteopathic medicine practiced by DOs is becoming less distinct and is mainly philosophical.
STEP 4 Look for Experience
When you’re facing health issues or coping with illness, experience matters. The more experience a doctor has with treating a condition or performing a procedure, the better your results are likely to be. Ask how many patients with your specific condition the doctor has treated. If you know you may need a specific procedure, ask the doctor how many of the procedure he or she has performed. Remember to ask about the results patients have experienced.
STEP 5 Get Personal
It is important for you to feel comfortable with your doctor’s gender because you will need to openly discuss personal information. Also, ask yourself whether the doctor’s age is important to you; that is, does it indicate to you a level of experience or knowing the latest medical advancements? Be sure to ask a doctor about his or her recent training and experience specifically related to your condition and your gender. If you want to be under this doctor’s care for years to come, you may want to consider a doctor who is not close to retirement.
STEP 6 Examine the Hospital
Doctors have admitting privileges—permission to treat patients—at certain hospitals. That’s right. You can’t choose any doctor you want and expect to be treated at any hospital you want. Find out where the doctors on your list can treat patients; then research those hospitals on Healthgrades. If a doctor’s hospital falls short in quality, you should find a doctor who treats patients at a hospital likely to offer you the best possible outcome.
STEP 7 Listen to Other Patients
Reading what other people have to say about a doctor can provide insight into how a doctor practices medicine, as well as how his or her medical practice is operated. Patient satisfaction surveys typically ask people about their experience with scheduling appointments, wait times, office environment, and office friendliness. You can learn about how well patients trust the doctor, how much time he or she spends with their patients, and how well he or she answers questions.
STEP 8 Consider Location and Office Hours
If your medical care requires frequent trips to the doctor, you might be thinking about a doctor that is conveniently located for you and family members. As a matter of convenience, make sure the doctor will be able to see you when you are available to come to the office. But keep in mind that sacrificing quality for convenience could compromise the quality of care you receive.
STEP 9 Pick Your Provider Before Your Plan
Your insurance coverage is a practical matter. To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your care, you may need to choose a doctor that participates in your plan. When you’re in a situation to select a health insurance plan, it’s helpful to understand that doctors only see patients with certain insurance plans. You’ll want to find the best doctor who fits your specific medical and health insurance needs before you enroll in a plan. Some plans give you more provider choices than others.
STEP 10 Interview Your Doctor
As you narrow down your list, call each doctor’s office and ask for a consult appointment to meet and interview the doctor. Ask yourself if you are comfortable with the doctor’s bedside manner. Does he or she respect your opinions and answer your questions in a way you understand? Look for a doctor with whom you are comfortable talking, whose approach to medicine feels right to you, and who supports your information needs.
STEP 11 Ask Yourself
Now that you know what to look for when choosing a doctor, ask yourself which factors are most important to you. You may need to find a balance between these 10 factors. Your goal is finding the best doctor who most closely meets your needs. You want to get the best care from someone you can trust and who puts you at ease.