Whether you have moved to a new area, your past provider is retiring, or you’re seeking a specialist, finding a new doctor can feel overwhelming. However, doing some research in advance and keeping your priorities in mind can help ensure you choose a provider who is a good fit for you and/or your family members. Here are a few steps to get started:
- Contact your insurance company. Either research their online directory of in-network providers or ask them to share a list of doctors in your area that are in-network. Finding an in-network provider is important to ensure your visits are covered and that you do not pay more than you need to for your care.
- Ask around. Check with family, friends, co-workers or neighbors for recommendations in your area. Oftentimes word-of-mouth is the best recommendation.
- Create a list of potential providers. Cross-reference your list of in-network providers with those who others have recommended, and then create a master list of providers you may want to consider.
- Start calling. Reach out to the practices you are interested in and ask to chat with one of the nurses to discuss any questions you may have about the provider. While the pandemic has limited in-person meet and greets, it may be possible to set up a quick phone chat or initial consultation before moving forward.
Consider your priorities
Everyone has different preferences for doctors. The most important thing is choosing someone you feel is capable of providing the care you need, both in their treatment and interactions with you or your family members. Beyond being in-network, these are a few things to consider:
- Credentials. Look for doctors with active licenses and make sure they are board certified in their specialty. Does their education and training align with what you are looking for?
- Staffing. Will you be seeing the same doctor each time you visit, or does the staff rotate based on availability? Is it a large practice or independent office?
- Hospital affiliation. Depending on the specialty and your requirements, this can be important if you need in-patient care at a hospital or treatment at an outpatient center. Does the hospital also accept your insurance?
- Location. Is the office conveniently located for you? Are there multiple locations that are easy for you to get to?
- Availability. Are they accepting new patients? If you need to schedule a visit for an illness, how quickly are they able to get you an appointment? Are their office hours convenient for you? Do they allow walk-in appointments?
- After-hours availability. Who can you reach after hours? How do you reach the doctor? Is there a patient portal for questions, labs, and appointment scheduling?
- Communication. Do the doctor and staff answer your questions in a way that you understand? Do you feel comfortable speaking with them? Are your language/cultural needs met?
And remember, even after you choose a doctor, you’re not obligated to stick with him/her. You may really love the doctor at first, but may change your mind as you begin to see him/her, or you may get a recommendation for someone who sounds like a better fit for you and your family.