Choosing the Right Doctor for Your Needs

Choosing the Right Doctor for Your Needs

Choosing a primary care doctor can be a daunting task. Whether you’ve just moved and you’re looking for a doctor in your area or your previous doctor has stopped practicing, or you just feel you need a change – whatever the reason, you’re making an important decision about your health that will impact how you manage your medical care for some time. Your primary care doctor will be the person you confide in when you’re not feeling well, potentially when you’re scared or concerned, and needs to be someone you trust and feel comfortable with. There are a lot of variables to consider when looking for a doctor that’s right for your specific needs. Below are a few steps to get you started:

  1. Check your insurance. To make sure your insurance will cover the doctor you choose, it’s best to narrow your list down that way, rather than finding the perfect doctor only to realize your insurance won’t cover you. To determine who’s covered and who isn’t, you can call your insurance provider and ask them to send you a list of who is in your network, or check your account online.

  2. Consider what kind of doctor you’re looking for. The National Institute of Health published this article which describes the differences between a family care physician, primary care doctor, internist, etc.

  3. Research. Once you have your list of in-network providers, you can start to narrow down this list a couple of different ways, depending on what’s most important to you. Consider these factors:
    a) Geography – Is it important that your doctor be close to you? How long are you willing to commute to get to a doctor’s appointment?
    b) Recommendations – Ask friends in the area for referrals, and remember to be specific – you don’t just want to know whether or not they like the doctor, you want to know why, because what they like in a doctor may not match up with what you are looking for (or need) in a doctor.
    c) Accreditation, Research & Schooling – Thanks to the internet you can find most of this online almost immediately. With a little googling, you can find out where your doctor got his or her degree and what specific qualifications or specialties they might have. If you’re looking for a doctor with specific interests or knowledge based on a given topic (like diabetes or arthritis, for example) check if the doctor has written any research papers and what they’ve been written on.

  4. Checking out the Real Thing. The best way to get a feel for whether or not a doctor is right for you is to get to know them in person. You can:
    a) Call – A good doctor should be perfectly comfortable with you wanting to call and talk with them about how they run their practice and what they can offer you, before you agree to be a patient.
    b) See them in person – Stop by the office and see how it feels for you. Is this someplace you’d feel comfortable if you were sick? Is the lobby packed or empty? Is there a long wait? How does the staff treat people? Take note of these things and see how it makes you feel.
    c) Check out their website – you probably did this already if you looked up their research and schooling, but take a closer look at the website to get a sense for how they operate. Is the website clear and easy to understand? Is it obvious from the home page how to get in contact with your doctor? Is he or she available by email?

  6. Credentials. Last but certainly not least, is choosing a doctor that is affiliated with an America’s Best Hospital as determined by the Women’s Choice Award research team. These hospitals are identified based on objective measurements and are required to meet specific criteria, depending on the award they’ve earned. This may be particularly important if you’re going to be giving birth at a hospital or may need surgery for a hip replacement, heart transplant, cancer treatments, etc. So when you’re searching for a doctor, check out the ‘America’s Best Hospitals’ to see if your hospital has appropriate credentials!

Cheers to good health!
Emily-SmalterAuthor: Emily Smalter Emily is currently enrolled in a Master's of Social Work program at Kansas University. Outside of her schoolwork, Emily advocates for women to have a stronger voice in both the public and private realm, and spends her spare hours writing on how to make the seemingly smaller tasks in our lives more manageable.

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