How do you pick a doctor? Here are 5 tips
Choosing a doctor can be a daunting task. You need someone you can trust with your life, someone who will see things in your health and history that you don’t and someone you can talk openly and honestly with.
“A good doctor is someone you can communicate with, who is on your side, listens to you and your needs and tries to find the best path for you,” says Dr. Reena Shah, an internal medicine doctor at Advocate Health Care. “They will look out for your best interests.”
A primary care doctor is the coordinator of your care, like the conductor in an orchestra who puts all the different pieces together, she says.
Dr. Shah says there are five things anyone should keep in mind when in the market for a new primary care doctor:
1. Suit your needs
You’ll need to think about what type of doctor will best fit your individual and family health needs. There are several medical specialties and board certifications to choose from:
- Family medicine — Family practitioners are highly trained general medical practitioners who may provide medical, gynecological, pediatric and sometimes even surgical care for patients of any age. These doctors treat illnesses, provide preventive care and coordinate the care that may be provided by other specialty care physicians and health professionals.
- Internal medicine — Typically, internal medicine physicians, or internists, are trained to treat any medical conditions that are not surgical or gynecological. Internists may also provide primary care for young adults, adults and seniors, providing preventive care and coordinating care with other medical specialists.
- Pediatrician — Pediatricians are trained to care for the specific needs of growing infants, children and teenagers.
- Geriatrics – Geriatric doctors, or geriatricians, specialize in the care of aging adults who are 65 and older who often require complex care and medication.
- Integrative medicine – These physicians combine conventional medicine with complementary therapies to help take care of the whole person.
2. Ask for recommendations
One of the best resources for a new doctor can be your own circle of family members and friends. In addition, the insurance coverage you’re considering will determine who you have to choose from. Coverage may vary doctor to doctor, so be certain to make sure any doctor you’re considering accepts your insurance coverage.
A physician’s hospital affiliation may also be valuable to know in the event you need more serious care. Choosing a provider with a strong relationship with a reputable hospital provides access to specialties like cardiovascular care, cancer treatment and surgical services, if needed.
4. Location, location, location
Having a doctor whose office is close to your work will help ensure you make your regular appointments and make it easier to get into the office when you’re not feeling well. Also, check to make certain the office is open when you need it. Many physician practices not only offer expanded evening and weekend hours, but allow other practice physicians to see you if your chosen physician isn’t available.
5. In tune
Like any long-term relationship, your relationship with your primary care physician is ultimately based on trust and compatibility. Check language preferences, education and seriously consider if this is someone you can speak with openly. You’ll need to be able to communicate openly and directly with your physician, so make certain you’re completely comfortable with them.
“Seeing your primary care doctor regularly can help prevent minor issues from becoming major, and help you keep on top of existing health concerns,” Dr. Shah says. “It’s important that you put care and thought into the decision and, hopefully, build a lasting relationship with your doctor. You want to find someone you can grow old with.”
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.