What to consider when you’re looking for a new doctor

July 23, 2019 in Family Caregiving  •  By Miles Varn, MD
new doctor

There are many reasons you may need to find a new doctor. Your doctor may be retiring. Your health insurance may have changed and you’ve got a new provider network. You moved. Or you may not feel you and your doctor are a good fit. So where should you start and what questions should you ask?

Where to look

While there are online reviews of doctors, that’s not always a reliable resource for vetting possible new doctors. Friends and family can share the names of their doctors and whether they’re happy with the care they receive. Your health insurance provider will have a directory of in-network physicians you can use as a starting point. A health advisor is another resource. An advisor can help you determine what you’re looking for in a physician and connect you with doctors who deliver quality care and meet your criteria.

What to consider

In most cases, you’ll want to make sure the doctor you’re considering is in your health insurance network. There are some cases when that may not be your top concern, for example if you’re facing a serious diagnosis or are diagnosed with a rare or complex health issue. In these situations, you may need to go outside your insurance network to find a doctor with the right experience and level of expertise.

If you’re looking for a primary care physician, think about whether you’d prefer a family or general practice physician, who treats patients of all ages, or an internal medicine doctor, who treats adults. If you’re older, you may want to look for a doctor who’s board certified in geriatric medicine.

You’ll want to find out how long the doctor has been in practice, whether he or she is board certified, and whether he or she has ever been disciplined by the state medical board.

It’s also helpful to make a list of what you’re looking for in a new doctor.

  • Do you prefer a male or female doctor?
  • Do you need a doctor who has evening and weekend office hours?
  • Do you want a doctor with an office near home or work?
  • Does it matter which hospitals the doctor has privileges at?
  • Would you prefer a doctor who works on her or his own or one who’s part of a group?
  • If English is not your first language, would you prefer a doctor who speaks your native language?

What to ask

Once you know what you’re looking for and have a list of potential candidates, it can be helpful to meet with the doctors and ask them these key questions:

  • How long does it take to get an appointment? Do you have same day appointments for sick care visits?
  • Can I reach you via phone or email with questions?
  • How does your practice handle emergencies and who would see me if you’re not available?
  • In a group practice, will I see the same doctor each visit?

If you have a specific health concern or issue, ask if the doctor has experience treating patients with that issue.

After your meeting, ask yourself these questions:

  • Did the doctor listen to you and answer your questions or did the doctor do all the talking?
  • Did the doctor speak in easy-to-understand plain English?
  • Did you feel rushed or like the doctor was impatient?


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