8 Tips for Choosing a Pain Medicine Doctor

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on May 11, 2020
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    A Personal Decision
    Deciding that it’s time to see a pain medicine doctor may mean that you have been living with pain for a long time. If so, choosing a pain medicine doctor is one of the most important and personal decisions you can make. Your pain medicine doctor is your partner in managing your pain and protecting your health. How do you find the best pain medicine doctor who is right for you? Here are some important factors to keep in mind.
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    1. Get Referrals
    Start by asking your primary care doctor for a referral list of pain medicine doctors. You can also ask family, friends and other healthcare providers for recommendations. Take the time to research the doctors’ credentials and experience on Healthgrades.com. As you narrow down your list, call each pain medicine doctor’s office to make a consult appointment to meet and interview the doctor.
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    2. Research the Pain Medicine Doctor’s Credentials
    Board certification is one of the most important factors to consider when you are choosing a pain medicine doctor. When a doctor has completed a pain medicine fellowship program, it tells you that he or she has the necessary training, skills and experience to provide healthcare in pain medicine. Also confirm that the doctor has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find the pain medicine doctor’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history on Healthgrades.com and state websites.
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    3. Consider the Pain Medicine Doctor’s Experience
    Experience matters when you’re dealing with chronic pain or painful conditions. The more experience a pain medicine doctor has with a condition or procedure, the better your results are likely to be. Ask how many patients with your specific condition the doctor has treated. If you need a specific procedure, such as a nerve block,ask how many of the procedures the doctor has performed and find out about complication rates—complications the doctor has encountered as well as your own risk of complications.
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    4. Consider Gender
    It’s important to feel comfortable with your pain medicine doctor’s gender because you will need to openly discuss personal information. When it comes to pain, your own gender is also an important consideration. Pain medicine doctors are becoming more skilled in caring for women and men differently. Ask the pain medicine doctor about his or her recent training and experience specifically related to your condition and your gender.
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    5. Ask About Telehealth Capabilities
    Healthcare providers can diagnose and treat some patients using telecommunications technology, including two-way video, smartphones, and email; it's called telehealth. Ask if the doctor offers telehealth capabilities. Telehealth doesn’t replace hands-on in-person office visits, but for many patients, it means fewer trips to the doctor’s office. Some conditions can be managed by sending symptoms and vital signs you collect at home and having a “virtual visit” with your provider. Telehealth can also be used for routine follow-ups and minor complaints too, making it a convenient option. Check to make sure your health insurance will pay for telehealth services.
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    6. Evaluate Communication Style
    Choose a pain medicine doctor with whom you are comfortable talking and who supports your information needs. When you first meet the pain medicine doctor, ask a question and notice how he or she responds. Does he or she welcome your questions and answer them in ways that you can understand? Find a pain medicine doctor who shows an interest in getting to know you, who will consider your treatment preferences, and who will respect your decision-making process.
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    7. Review Patient Reviews
    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 reviews typically reflect people's experience with scheduling appointments, wait times, office environment, and office staff friendliness. You can learn how well patients trust the doctor, how much time he or she spends with their patients, and how well he or she answers questions.
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    8. Know What Your Insurance Covers
    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 pain medicine doctor who participates in your plan. You should still consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and hospital quality as you select a pain medicine doctor from your plan.
8 Tips for Choosing a Pain Medicine Doctor
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2015 May 5
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.