Tips To Help You
Find a Good Doctor
By Carolyn M.
July 15, 2008
Ask 10 people if
they know where to get information on buying a
new car, and probably 9 of them would say "yes."
But if you asked those same 10 people if they
know how to choose a doctor, I bet very few
Finding a doctor
might seem easy. Popular magazines, Web sites,
and other media regularly publish lists of "top
doctors." You may also receive newsletters and
mailings from doctors in your area or get
helpful recommendations from friends and
a physician who provides high-quality care and
who meets your needs isn’tand shouldn’t bea
snap decision. Finding a doctor who can
communicate and is willing to partner with you
in decisions about your health can be hard work,
but it is worth the effort.
question you should consider is whether you need
a primary care or a specialty doctor.
A primary care
physician is a doctor who diagnoses and treats a
wide range of common illnesses and conditions.
Primary care doctors also provide patient
education, offer advice on preventing disease,
and coordinate care if a specialist is needed.
Primary care doctors may be certified, which
means that they have special skills in different
areas, such as family or internal medicine.
care doctors tend to have heavy workloads,
getting an appointment with one can be
doctor, or specialist, has advanced training in
a certain area of medicine focusing on a
particular disease, condition, or procedure.
Common types of specialists are allergists,
cardiologists, and surgeons. General specialists
also can refer patients with complex diseases to
doctors with even more expertise.
Before you make
an appointment with either a primary care or
specialist doctor, find out whether your health
plan includes that doctor in its approved list
of providers. Not all plans include the same
doctors in their network. If they don’t, you
could end up paying the full cost of the visit.
To be safe, find
out whether your doctor is in good standing with
State agencies that grant medical licenses to
physicians. You can do this through a Web site
DocFinder. This site reports whether
disciplinary action or criminal charges have
been filed against doctors. Information reported
to DocFinder comes from individual State medical
and osteopathic boards. State boards are another
good source of information on physicians in your
Even if the
doctor you choose is right for your condition,
is covered by your health plan, and is in good
standing with State agencies, that doesn’t mean
he or she is your best choice. Find out if the
answers questions about your condition and
treatment plan. If there isn’t enough time
to answer your questions during the
appointment, find out if the office will
contact you later. Or ask whether there is a
good time to call with any followup
questions. To get the most from your medical
appointment, use the Agency for Healthcare
Research and Quality’s (AHRQ’s)
Question Builder tool on our Web site.
- Uses a
hospital whose location and quality you feel
comfortable with, in the event you need
hospital care. Learn more about the quality
of care at many hospitals from the Federal
Hospital Compare Web site.
routine X-rays and lab services in the
office. If not, you may need to travel to a
different location for services.
insurance claims at the office. If not, you
may have to pay for services upfront and
file the claims on your own.
Finding the right
doctor might not be as easy as choosing your
next car. But the effort you put into it can pay
rewards for a lifetime.
I’m Dr. Carolyn
Clancy, and that’s my advice on how to navigate
the health care system.
How to Choose a Doctor (Transcript) Podcast
for Healthcare Research and Quality
Questions and Answers About Health
Insurance: A Consumer Guide
for Healthcare Research and Quality
Questions Are the Answer: Build Your
Academy of Family Physicians
A quality tool for adults, including people
Administrators in Medicine (AIM)
Current as of July 2008
Tips To Help You Find a Good Doctor.
Navigating the Health Care System: Advice
Columns from Dr. Carolyn Clancy, July 15, 2008.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality,
Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/cc/cc071508.htm