Choosing a healthcare provider is a big decision. Your relationship with your doctor — whether a primary care physician or specialist such as an oncologist or rheumatologist — is dependent upon your well-being. In other words, the right person can make all the difference in how you handle your health. After all, your doctor is who you trust to care for your health, help you make important health-related decisions, and take advice from, so choosing the right one is not something to take lightly.
“The important point: Consumers don’t do sufficient research,” says Dr. David Nash, dean of Philadelphia’s Jefferson School of Population Health. “The real story in a market-driven health care model is how do I choose where and to whom I should go?”
With that said, instead of calling the first name that pops up on your Google search, it’s important to dig a little deeper.
A background check can determine a doctor’s medical school, specializations, certifications, publications, the location of his or her fellowship program, amount of continuing education, licensure, etc. — all of which are important factors to consider when making this decision.
“Rely more on the doctor’s knowledge base and surgical skills than on word-of-mouth,” says Michael S. Patriarco, D.O., director of minimally invasive surgery at St. Luke’s Center for Advanced Gynecologic Care, Allentown. “A doctor might have a wonderful bedside manner, but not be very adept in the operating room.”
Ask for a referral
Whether it’s a family member, friend, or coworker, a recommendation from someone you can rely on is one of the best and easiest ways to find a good doctor. In fact, those who go through someone they trusted to find their doctor had better experiences, according to a research by Consumer Reports. You may also ask your previous doctor for a recommendation.
A perfect doctor may be available, but if their office is more than an hour away or their practice isn’t covered under your insurance, then you must weigh the pros and cons. During your search, be on the lookout for someone whose office isn’t too far away from your home or work, works hours that are suitable to your schedule, and who takes your healthcare insurance. If you’re unsure on the latter, most insurance companies will provide referrals for doctors under their plan and offer a summary plan description, which outlines precisely how your plan works.
Once you’ve done your homework and found a doctor that meets all of your requirements, you’ll still want to go over a few things.
“If I call on a Tuesday with a 102-degree fever and feel like I’m going to die, will the doctor see me that afternoon and or the next morning, or send me to the emergency room — which is a huge red flag,” explains Dr. Nash. Other questions to consider are: How long will you have to wait to make an appointment? Will the doctor be on hand, by phone or email if you have to get in touch quickly, and which form of communication do they prefer? Do they have any policies you should know? When asking them these questions, don’t forget to write down all their answers so you have it on hand, especially helpful if you’re comparing the information to other physicians.
Make sure you get along
“It makes sense to invest some time in getting to know your doctor, to see if this physician-patient relationship is right for you,” says Dr. Richard Colgan, professor of family and community medicine at University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.
Just as important as the doctor’s medical background and expertise is how well you two work together. Find someone who you feel comfortable with, who you feel you can talk to easily, who you trust, and who you have an overall connection with. Also, if you choose a physician and later find you’re not getting along with him or her, don’t feel obligated to continue care; simply seek a new doctor.
Choosing a doctor that fits your health needs can be a more difficult choice than you originally believed. But once you find someone who will help you out during your time of need, it is quite a relief to know that you’re in good, capable hands.
This article is presented by Perkins Motors in Colorado Springs, Colorado.