From the common cold to chronic or terminal illness, finding the right doctor for your specific needs can be a challenging one. For many, the choice of physician is based exclusively on “was he or she nice enough?” While bedside manner is important, the “niceness factor” is not enough to base a decision on when it comes to our health and well-being.
Finding a doctor that meets our needs can be complex these days. With insurance requirements and specialization, it’s hard to make sense of it all. But by following a few simple guidelines (and doing our homework), we can make wise decisions about our health care, and our health care providers.
- First, most insurances these days require that we find a primary care physician—one doctor who can provide general oversight of all our health needs, and act as a liaison of sorts when more specialized care is needed. Be sure to check with your insurance for a list of in-network (insurance approved) practitioners in your area. This will ensure your highest level of coverage.
- Each physician has hospital affiliations and care networks they are a part of. Before choosing a doctor, be sure that he/she has privileges at a medical center near you. In an emergency, you don’t want to have to drive clear across town or to another city to find care.
- Always choose an ABMS (American Board of Medical Specialties) Board Certified doctor for your care. This ensures that your doctor has received a degree from a qualified medical school, has met the required educational standards, and is licensed to practice medicine within a given specialty, such as Family Practice, Orthopedics, Pediatrics, or Cardiology. Doctors are also licensed per state, so be sure to check licensing and certifications posted on the wall of your doctor’s office. Licensing will clearly note “For the State of <insert your state here>” across the top.
- Ask your doctor if he/she allows drug reps in the office. Many doctors let representatives from pharmaceutical companies regularly visit their office. As such, there is often a partnership between the physician and the representative that could potentially influence the medications prescribed to you by your doctor. You should never accept prescriptions without fully understanding the purpose for the medication, and how it is expected to affect your condition.
- Scrutinize the doctor’s office policies, staff and technologies. Does the doctor have hours that are conducive with yours? How long does it take to secure an appointment for a routine visit? Is staff courteous and attentive to your needs? Is there enough staff to adequately assist their volume of patients? Does the office use secure methods for protecting your personal and medical information? What forms of payment are accepted? Is payment required at time of service, or will payment be billed? These are all important questions to have answered.
- Lastly, do your homework. Check your doctor’s practice history. It is not uncommon for a doctor to have one or two malpractice claims in their past if they’ve been practicing for some time, but multiple malpractice claims are most definitely a red flag. Consumer Reports has begun rating primary care doctors by using data from physicians, health plans, employers, hospitals, and consumers. This is currently available in just four states; however, we are fortunate that Wisconsin is one of them. Contact Consumer Reports by calling 1-800-333-0663 to request the Guide to Doctor Ratings.
There is no need to settle for a doctor who is not meeting your needs and expectations. When you know some key things to look for, you can make a better decision regarding your healthcare provider(s). Isn’t your health worth the effort of finding the doctor who is right for you?