Put down the Yellow Pages! Selecting a doctor is a big decision that could potentially affect your health for years down the road. While it might feel easier to just pick a name out of the phone book, you should shop for a doctor for at least as long as it’d take you to shop for a lawyer, accountant or any other professional you entrust with your well-being, according to U.S. News.
What kind of doctor are you looking for? U.S. News reported you should prioritize different factors depending on whether you’re looking for a primary care physician (PCP), a one-time specialist or a specialist for long-term care. For example, the doc’s personality will matter more if you’ll be seeing him or her frequently, as is the case with PCPs and long-term specialists.
Prioritize their skills: Once you know what type of doc you’re looking for, decide what matters most to you. For a specialist, you may highly value your PCP’s recommendations, a prestigious medical degree or other recognitions and achievements within that doctor’s field. In the case of a PCP, a pal’s recommendation of a warm, agreeable doctor may carry more weight. Just be sure to find out why a particular doctor is recommended; maybe your friend appreciates a more clinical demeanor, but you want someone you can chat with. Consumer review sites can offer similar insight.
Unfortunately, the truth is, there’s no one right way to pick your doctor; it’s important that you select someone based on qualities that matter to you. That said, The New York Times reported that insurance companies and regional magazines are creating more comprehensive lists of the best doctors, so if rankings are important to you, look at these resources. Consumer Reports also has a list of sites where you can check a doctor’s general credentials (like degrees and certifications).
Research individuals: Starting with those qualifications, you should be able to put together a list — either from the Internet at large or from your insurance company — of doctors to consider. Next, check out each doctor’s website. It may sound trivial, but one doc told U.S. News that it can actually give you a lot of insight into how this doctor communicates.
You should also be able to find important info like office hours and location. Convenience is essential; you probably don’t want to drive an hour each way when you’re under the weather or take off work for every routine check-up. The doctor will also be affiliated with nearby hospitals and will likely recommend specialists they work with in the area, so traveling for one doctor could translate into traveling for all medical care.
Have a conversation: Many doctors will be willing to have a phone conversation or an in-office interview. You should mention any specific medical concerns, and try to get a feel for how they interact with patients. Even a phone conversation with a receptionist can clue you in on how busy the office usually is, how far in advance appointments need to be made and whether the doctor is usually on time.