How to find a good doctor

Some people spend more time finding a good attorney than a doctor. In this day and age of confusing PPOs and HMOs, it is easy to forget that just because a doctor accepts your insurance, it does not mean that he is the right “match” for you. The following are some suggestions on how to find the doctor that meets your needs.

First, you do have to do the preliminary research to make sure the doctor you will be visiting accepts your insurance plan. Although this doctor might be listed in a book of participating physicians, call both your insurance company and the doctor’s office to double-check that they are still participating in your plan.

Next is making the appointment. How soon can the doctor see you? Tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Waiting for the appointment can be very inconvenient if you are in discomfort or have anxiety about something possibly wrong.

Is the doctor available nine to five on weekdays only, or do they have evening or Saturday hours? Does the office staff listen to what you are saying? Do you feel “heard”? Do you feel treated with respect? Or are you put on hold and never got back to? When looking for a doctor the entire staff is involved in the experience you have visiting the office, so how the office staff treats you matters.

Once you go to the office, what is the atmosphere? Calm, comfortable, and professional? Or crowded, disorganized, and anxious? You can pick up a “vibe” that tells you how this visit is going to go. To be fair, sometimes doctors have emergencies that may delay your getting in on time, but otherwise, how much office waiting time is reasonable?

Ten, fifteen minutes? Half an hour? An hour? In the olden days, people treated the doctor as a god and life moved a little slower, so many people didn’t mind spending “all day at the doctor’s”. With the realization that patients have rights, too, and especially now, due to life’s faster pace, people are sometimes visiting the doctor before work or on their lunchtime.

A doctor’s time is valuable, but so is yours, so if he or she does not apologize for an unusually long wait, speak up and let it be known that this was an inconvenience for you and ask if this is indicative of the usual office wait. You don’t want to pay a $10 co-pay plus two hours of lost time on your job for a simple office visit.

Once in the exam room, does the exam room look clean and organized? If the nurse comes in first, does she seem adept at tasks like taking vital signs and drawing blood (if needed)? Once you are with the doctor, is he or she open to questions and seem sensitive to your concerns?

Do you get the feeling that this doctor not only cares for but cares about patients? Your doctor is someone who knows the most intimate things about you and your body, so are you comfortable talking to this person?

If you need tests, where are they done? In the office, at the hospital, or at a medical center? Who will help interpret your results, and how soon will you be notified? Will they contact you at home? At work?

Or will you find out the results at a follow-up visit? If you are the type of person that is nervous about test results and hates suspense, it is a good idea to relate that and arrange in advance how and approximately when you will hear back from the doctor.

It is well worth it to “interview” a prospective doctor to make sure that he or she has what you need. A doctor who is worth visiting won’t mind your questions and will treat you with respect. There are so many goods, caring doctors out there that you deserve to have one taking care of you.

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