With over 20 different kinds of medical specialties, it can be daunting looking for the right doctor to meet your needs.
In most cases, your search will start with a visit to a family physician. From there, they can refer you to a specialist.
However, a basic understanding of different specialties and what traits are common among those doctors will help you know how to choose a doctor. Not all doctors are created equal, and finding the right fit for your needs is vital to receiving great care.
1. Evaluate Your Own Needs
Before you can begin your search for the right doctor, take an inventory of your own medical needs. Consider whether you alone need medical care, or your needs include a significant other, parents, grandparents, or children.
If you have a chronic illness or pain, you’ll need to find a family care provider that you can feel comfortable visiting with often.
For those with hormone imbalances, thyroid issues, or autoimmune diseases you will need to find a functional medicine doctor who you can see frequently to assess and reevaluate your care plan.
Having a doctor that you are able to freely communicate with is essential. Especially if you will be seeing them more often than for yearly check-ups.
2. Check With Your Insurance
One of the biggest letdowns involving good medical care is when you find a great doctor but discover he or she is not covered by your insurance.
Medical expenses are large. Your best option is to take a look at the physicians covered by your existing insurance provider before you schedule a visit.
This will prevent you from finding yourself covering the entire cost of a visit or having a hefty copay.
Be sure to check your insurance policy every year as insurance or doctor’s offices can change their policies frequently. The doctor you were covered with last year may not stay on your plan next year.
3. Research the Physician’s Background
We’ve all seen the horror stories in the news about patients who received terrible medical care because they visited a quack with no license. The point is, even if their name ends in M.D. or D.O. it’s always wise to look into a potential doctor’s background.
Questions to ask:
- Are they board-certified?
- Are they licensed to practice in your state?
- Are they current with certifications and recent research studies in their area of expertise?
- Did they complete a fellowship in their area of specialty?
- Where did they attend medical school?
- What do patient reviews say about them online?
4. Review Their Experience
If you are referred to a specialist or must undergo some kind of procedure, find out what your doctor’s track record is. Do they have lots of malpractice suits filed against them?
How many successful surgeries have they done like the one you need?
While many doctors, especially surgeons or OBs, may have some malpractice suits brought against them, look into why and what the outcome was. Where possible, find out as much history on your physician’s record as you can.
Does the physician have any complaints recorded involving harassment or other inappropriate behavior?
For delicate procedures or life-threatening issues, no one will hold it against you to opt for a more experienced doctor than someone fresh out of residency.
Your health is more important than a potential doctor’s feelings. Choose the person you feel most confident trusting your care to.
5. Choose a Hospital First
Are you planning on delivering a baby in the future, or needing to be hospitalized for any other health reason?
Most doctors are affiliated with one or more hospitals in your city. If you have a strong preference for one hospital over another, this is an important factor in choosing the doctor that is best for you.
One good rule of thumb may be to decide on the hospital you prefer first, then move to find a doctor, (covered by your insurance), that is affiliated there.
This will prevent you from having to jump to a new doctor in the middle of a treatment plan just so you can stay in the hospital where you’d like.
6. Bedside Manner Matters
You never know what kind of medical issues may crop up in your life or in your family’s. Find a doctor who you feel confident will treat you with patience, respect, and dignity regardless of how often you visit them.
Physical care is only one aspect of true health. Emotional health goes hand in hand with complete care. Being treated kindly is essential to good total health.
While most individuals in the healthcare industry go into their line of work because they care about helping others, some are unfortunately arrogant.
To their credit, doctors have undergone a great deal of schooling to get where they are. Still, this doesn’t mean you need to see a physician who will treat you as if you were a lower rung on the ladder.
7. Know What’s Available
As mentioned, there are numerous specialties out there. Certain doctors can be very adept at one specific area of the body.
To be sure you are properly diagnosed and treated, do your research to understand what kinds of doctors there are. You may even opt to see a nurse practitioner, physical therapist, or another certified healthcare provider.
If you feel like the specialist you’re seeing isn’t providing the care you need, work with your primary physician to see what other options are available.
Far too many illnesses go untreated simply because of lack of information. This can be either on the part of the doctor, or the patient.
More Ideas on How to Choose a Doctor
These 7 tips for how to choose a doctor are a great start. Once you choose a quality family care practitioner, they can refer you to specialists with whom they are affiliated.
Typically, good doctors work with other good doctors so finding the specific help you need will become much easier after that point.
For more tips and ideas on properly caring for your health, browse the health section of our blog.