Just knowing that you need to see a cardiologist can be worrisome. If you are like most patients, your primary care doctor has recommended that you see a heart specialist. How do you find the best cardiologist who is right for you? Take the following issues into consideration.
1. Get Referrals
Start with your referral list from your primary care doctor. You can also ask family, friends, and other healthcare professionals for recommendations. Take the time to research the doctors’ credentials and experience on Healthgrades.com. As you narrow down your list, call each cardiologist’s office and ask for a consult appointment to meet and interview the cardiologist.
2. Research the Cardiologist’s Credentials
Board certification is one of the most important factors to consider; it tells you that the doctor has the needed training, skills and experience to provide healthcare in cardiology. Also confirm that the cardiologist has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find the cardiologist’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history on Healthgrades.com and state websites.
3. Consider the Cardiologist’s Experience
When you’re dealing with the health of your heart, experience matters. The more experience a cardiologist has with a condition or procedure, the better your treatment results are likely to be. Fellowship training in one of several subspecialty areas is also valuable. Ask how many patients with your specific condition the cardiologist has treated. If you know you need a specific procedure, ask the cardiologist how many of the procedures he or she has performed and find out about complication rates—complications the doctor has encountered as well as your own risk of complications.
4. Consider Gender
It is important for you to feel comfortable with your cardiologist’s gender because you will need to openly discuss personal information. Be sure to ask the cardiologist about his or her recent training and experience specifically related to your condition and your gender. Cardiologists are becoming more specialized in recognizing risk factors and caring for women with heart disease, and some hospitals have specialized women’s heart centers.
5. Research Hospital Quality
Your doctor’s hospital is your hospital. For this reason, consider the quality of care at the hospital where the cardiologist can treat patients. Hospital quality matters to you because patients at top-rated hospitals have fewer complications and better survival rates. Do your homework because two hospitals in the same neighborhood may report very different patient outcomes. Additionally, consider whether the hospital’s location is important to you. Should you need to go the hospital for tests or treatment, you want the location to encourage, rather than discourage timely care.
6. Evaluate Communication Style
Choose a cardiologist with whom you are comfortable talking and who supports your information needs. When you first meet the cardiologist, 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 cardiologist who shows an interest in getting to know you, who will consider your treatment preferences, and who will respect your decision-making process.
7. Read 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 friendliness. You can learn what people have to say about their level of trust with a doctor, how much time he or she spends with their patients, and how well he or she answers questions.
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 cardiologist who participates in your plan. You should still consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and hospital quality as you select a cardiologist from your plan.
Carol Dawson Fehringer is managing editor for Healthgrades, where she establishes editorial guidelines, designs content formats, and writes and edits on a broad range of health topics and hospital quality insights. Carol has a master’s in technical communication from the University of Colorado and previously worked in space engineering, water engineering, technical marketing, and digital media marketing.
At Healthgrades, our Editorial Team works hard to develop complete, objective and meaningful health information to help people choose the right doctor, right hospital and right care. Our writers include physicians, pharmacists, and registered nurses with firsthand clinical experience. All condition, treatment and wellness content is medically reviewed by at least one medical professional ensuring the most accurate information possible. Learn more about our editorial process.
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.