Health Information

How to Find Dr. Right

Your relationship with your health care provider is one of the most important in your life. You should be able to trust your health care provider with your most private health issues or problems and should feel certain he or she is your partner.

You may need to choose a new health care provider if your current one stops participating in your health insurance plan or no longer satisfies your particular needs.

Steps to take

The following suggestions can help you find a new health care provider who's right for you:

  • Look for a health care provider when you're healthy. When ill or in pain, you won't have the time or energy to carefully gather information about the qualifications or qualities of a new health care provider.

  • Gather names from several sources. Begin by asking your employer or health insurance representative for a list of primary care health care providers in your plan. In most cases, your out-of-pocket expenses will be less if you choose a participating health care provider. Follow up by asking coworkers, friends, or relatives if they would recommend or advise against any of the health care providers on the list.

  • Check each health care provider's credentials. Call your local state medical or osteopathic board. It gives basic professional information on nearly every licensed medical or osteopathic health care provider in your state. The listing includes the medical school the health care provider attended and any postgraduate training.

  • Make an appointment. Before you decide on a health care provider, make an appointment with one who looks promising. This meeting will help you decide whether you're comfortable with the health care provider, the support staff, and the facilities. Keep in mind that, as a new patient, it may take you longer to get in to see the health care provider. Insurance won't pay for a health care provider's visit that's not for a checkup or for a health problem. Schedule the visit with the goal of establishing care.

What to ask

During the visit, ask the following questions:

  • How can I reach you in an emergency?

  • Is it always necessary to make an appointment? Will you or a nurse answer routine questions over the phone?

  • Who gives care for your patients in your absence?

  • Has a medical specialty board certified you? If so, in what specialty area?

  • At what hospitals do you have privileges? (Make sure the hospital is covered by your insurance.)

Board certification indicates that health care providers are highly trained in the specialty they practice. They've had 3 or more years of training beyond medical school, practiced that specialty for a specified number of years, and passed an examination. Health care providers must attend continuing medical education programs throughout their careers to remain certified.

Rate your visit

Afterward, assess your visit. After following the steps above, ask yourself: Did the health care provider and the office staff treat me courteously? Were all of my questions answered? Did I feel rushed or dismissed? Do I agree with the health care provider's office policies and wellness philosophy?

If not satisfied, check with your insurer to see if you can visit another health care provider without paying the full cost of the visit.

Give the health care provider a try. Just as every health care provider has a different style, every patient has different needs. It’s important to have a trial period with your potential health care provider to make sure you're comfortable, have clear lines of communication, and receive excellent care.

If you're not happy with the health care provider, restart your search.