Over 65 and need a new doctor? What to look for

January 29, 2019 in Family Caregiving  •  By Miles Varn, MD
new doctor

There are many reasons you may be looking for a new primary care physician as you get older. Perhaps your doctor is retiring or no longer accepts your insurance. Maybe you’ve moved to a new town or state. Or you could be living with several medical issues and want to work with a doctor who has experience treating older patients with more complex medical histories. Whatever the reason, it can be tough to find a good fit with a new doctor, especially if you’ve seen the same doctor for years and had a good relationship.

A good first step is to make a list of skills and traits you want your new doctor to have:

  • Do you prefer a female or male doctor?
  • Are you comfortable with a younger doctor or would you rather work with someone older?
  • Do you want a doctor who’s specially trained to care for older patients (a geriatrician), a family practice doctor who sees patients of all ages, or an internist who sees only adult patients?
  • Are you looking for a doctor who is affiliated with a specific hospital or medical center?

You can build a list of potential new doctors by asking your current doctor for a recommendation, checking your insurer’s list of participating providers, and asking family and friends for recommendations. You may also want to consider working with a health advisor, especially if you’ve moved to a new area or have a complex medical history and also need the care of specialists like cardiologists, oncologists, or pulmonologists.

After you’ve built your list, you should consider practical matters, including:

  • Is the doctor accepting new patients?
  • Does the practice accept your insurance?
  • Is the office conveniently located?
  • What days and hours does the doctor see patients?
  • If you use a walker, cane, or wheelchair, is the office accessible?
  • How long does it take to get an appointment?
  • Who would provide care after hours or when the doctor is out of town?
  • What are the options for asking the doctor questions? Does he or she have call in hours or answer questions via email?

Once you have a list of doctors you want to consider, it can be helpful to meet with the new doctor to get a sense of whether it’s a good fit in terms of personality and to ask these key questions:

  • Do you see many patients who are my age or older?
  • What’s your experience managing patients who are on multiple medications? How often would you review my prescription medications and dosages to ensure I still need the medications and am taking the correct dosage for my current age, weight, and health?
  • Do you treat many patients who are living with the same health conditions and concerns that I am?
  • Are you board certified and, if so, in what specialty?
  • How long are typical appointments?
  • Do you allow family members or friends to attend appointments with me if I’d like them to?
  • What is your policy about sharing information about my health with my spouse, partner, or family?
  • Do you provide visit notes or a written summary of my visit that I can review after my appointment?