The doctor you choose can have a huge impact on your health and no two doctors are the same—so how do you find the best one for you? Here are 11 considerations to take into account when making your decision.
1. YOUR SITUATION
It sounds obvious, but it’s worth some serious thought. What are you looking for in a doctor? Are you generally healthy or do you have ongoing medical issues? Do you want someone who can give you a quick checkup and get you on your way, or do you need time and attention? Are you looking for a specialist or a primary care physician? How often do you expect to see this person?
Do you care about your doctor’s gender? Will you be comfortable being examined and treated by men and women equally, or do you have a preference? If you do have strong feelings, congratulations! You’ve just simplified your search.
Would you rather have a doctor near your home or near your workplace? How far away is too far? Is the office easily accessible by public transportation, if you use it?
Are you looking for an old-fashioned doctor? One who’s up on the latest research and experimental approaches? Do you want—or want to avoid—practitioners of alternative medicine?
5. PERSONALITY AND PRACTICES
How well you click with your care team can affect your care. Some people prefer their doctors to be certain and authoritative. Other people are looking for a more collaborative approach. Do you like a straight shooter or would you prefer a doctor who employs a more diplomatic approach? Pay attention in your interactions. Does the doctor listen without interrupting? Does she look at you or at her computer?
How do office staff members treat you on the phone? Do you trust them to pass along your messages? What kind of hours is the office open? Can the office accommodate early, evening, or weekend appointments if you need them? Do they make medical records available to patients online? Is it hard to schedule an appointment? Is there a waiting list?
7. EXPERIENCE WITH YOUR CONCERNS
If you live with chronic illness or other ongoing health problems, you’ll be seeing a lot of your doctor. There are thousands of medical conditions, and no doctor knows them all. Look for someone who is familiar with, and understands, what you’re going through—or someone who’s open to learning.
Another obvious one, but worth looking into. Insurance companies and medical practitioners change their policies all the time, but they don’t always update their websites. If you’ve found a practitioner that might be a good fit, call their office and ask directly if they accept your insurance. It’s better to do the legwork on the front end than to get burned later.
Ask around. Talk to your coworkers, if they share your insurance plan, and ask who they’d recommend and why. Check out Best Doctor listings online. Once you’ve narrowed it down, look on review sites like ZocDoc or Yelp to see what other patients are saying. If you’re living with chronic illness, reach out to other people with your condition to ask who they see and who they’d avoid.
10. RED FLAGS
If you’ve got a doctor in mind, do a quick search to rule out any obvious red flags. State medical associations maintain up-to-date lists of doctors who have had their licenses suspended or revoked, or those who are facing disciplinary action. It’s also pretty easy to find out if, and how often, a doctor has been sued for malpractice.
Board certification is a kind of guarantee that a doctor is educated, capable, and informed. The American Board of Medical Specialties maintains a database of board-certified doctors here.