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How to Find Dr. Right

Your relationship with your healthcare provider is one of the most important in your life. You should be able to trust your provider with your most private health issues or problems. And you should feel sure they are your partner.

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

Steps to take

Here is some advice to help you find a new healthcare provider who's right for you:

  • Look for a healthcare 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 provider.

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

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

  • Make an appointment. Before you decide on a provider, make an appointment with one who looks promising. This meeting will help you decide if you're comfortable with them, their support staff, and the facilities. Keep in mind that, as a new patient, it may take you longer to get in to see the provider. Insurance won't pay for a provider 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 provider these 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? Or through a patient portal message?

  • 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 healthcare 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 exam. Healthcare 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 healthcare 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 provider's office policies and wellness philosophy?

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

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

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