Doctor, Doctor

Maybe you have relocated to a new city. Or perhaps you recently had a baby and need a pediatrician. Whatever the reason, you find yourself looking for a new doctor and the task can be daunting. Since you can't afford to take chances with something as important as your health, here are a few guidelines for choosing the best doctor.

First, take time to review your specific Health insurance plan. For instance, if you have a health management organization (HMO), you should receive a list of doctors included in that plan. Once you have that list, ask co-workers who share your plan for recommendations.

Although word-of-mouth referrals can be helpful, it's important to remember that your criteria and preferences might be different from somebody else's. It's a good idea to schedule an introductory meeting with the physician to determine whether he/she is right for you. Here are some questions the doctor should be able to answer for you:
  • Can I call you on phone with questions?
  • How long does it take usually to get an appointment?
  • How is the billing handled?
  • Will the office submit insurance forms for me?
  • Who covers for you when you are not available?
  • What is the office policy for handling emergencies, particularly on the weekend?
  • Will I have a say in choosing specialists when referrals are needed?
Try to make a mental note of your impressions of your office visit, including the office staff and office surroundings:
  • Was the waiting room clean and comfortable?
  • Was the staff friendly and professional?
  • Did you communicate easily with the doctor, or did you feel rushed?
  • Were the doctor or staff members able to answer all your questions?
These impressions are good indicators of whether the doctor is a good fit for your needs.

You can also check your doctor's certification by contacting The American Board of Medical Specialties at www.abms.org and selecting the “Who's Certified” link.

Additionally, you can look your doctor up in the American Medical Association's American Medical Directory or the Directory of Medical Specialists, which can be found in all medical libraries and many large public libraries. These directories list the physician's educational background and whether or not he or she is board-certified in a specialty.