How do you choose the right doctor for your physical and financial situation? It’s especially important to choose the right primary care doctor. They typically provide you medical care over a long period of time, helping you stay healthy, manage your care and recommend specialists when needed.
Different types of doctors will meet different needs:
Internists and family practitioners are the largest group of primary care physicians for adults
Women may see OB/GYNs for some of their medical care needs
Pediatricians and family practitioners are the primary caregivers for many children
Both MDs (Doctors of Medicine) and DOs (Doctors of Osteopathy) can practice in any medical specialty, and both are licensed physicians in the United States. However, MDs make up about 90% of our doctors. Their training is more traditional, whereas DOs are trained in a more holistic approach, treating the mind, body, and spirit. Osteopathy is focused more on the body healing itself and less on prescribing medications.
What You Need to Know About Potential Doctors
The following guidelines will help you find the best physician to meet your needs.
Review your health plan and any restrictions it has on the providers you can see—most plans have provider directories that list the doctors available to you. This is also typically available on the insurance company’s website. Make sure you know whether or not you are covered if you see a physician that is outside of the network.
For each doctor that is available to you, find out:
If the doctor is highly rated by a consumer or other group
If the doctor has experience with your condition(s)
If the doctor has privileges at the hospital of your choice
If the doctor is part of your health plan’s network
If the doctor is conveniently located
The doctor’s office hours, including evening and weekend availability
The doctor’s cancellation policy and whether or not reminders are provided
If the doctor provides urgent or emergency care
If advice is available via telephone
Anything else that is important for you, personally
Example: Does your doctor share your views on abortion and end-of-life issues?
Resources for Choosing a Doctor
If you still haven’t made a decision, you can try:
Asking doctors, friends, co-workers or relatives for a referral
Calling the American Medical Association at 312-464-5000 for information on specific physicians’ training, specialties and board certification
Arranging an appointment or meeting with the doctors you are most interested in—if you are not comfortable around him or her, you will likely not be happy with the care you receive
Making sure that your doctor is someone that you trust is very important—take your time selecting a health care provider that truly meets your needs.