Open enrollment is upon us again, and this may be the year you decide to find a primary care provider or change the one you've been seeing. The trick is determining how to find a doctor that's right for you.
Doctors are not one-size-fits-all. To get the best care, you need to a strong relationship with your provider, so you have to find someone you're comfortable opening up to and whose care philosophy matches yours. Studies have found that people who have better communication with their doctors are more likely to take their medications properly, so you should find a doctor who will work with you to make treatment plans that match your values and preferences.
Taking about 20 minutes to research potential providers can go a long way in helping you manage your health. By following these steps, you'll know how to find a doctor who works for you and your needs.
1. Choose the Type of Provider You Need
For adults and families, a primary care provider is typically board-certified in internal medicine or family medicine. If you want the whole family seen by the same doctor, a family medicine physician may be right for you, and if you suffer from chronic conditions, an internist may be better suited to you. Pediatricians provide primary care for kids, and women sometimes opt for a gynecologist or certified nurse midwife as their primary care option.
You may have heard — or discovered for yourself — that it can be tough to get in to see a doctor. If you're an overall healthy adult with no major health concerns, establishing a relationship with a physician's assistant or nurse practitioner may work for you. Just be sure to research the doctor in the office as well in case you need to see him or her.
2. Check Your Insurance Network
Now that you know what type of provider you're looking for, start searching your insurance provider's directory for doctors near you. Make sure the doctor you're considering has privileges at your preferred hospital as well. This ensures that if you needed to receive care at the hospital, you can continue seeing the same doctor. You may need to visit the doctor's website or call the office if this information isn't listed in the insurance company's directory.
3. Look Up Online Reviews
Once you've made a list of potential doctors, do a quick online search to read patient reviews. These aren't the full story, of course, but they can give you a sense of any red flags that would keep you from seeing a particular doctor or highlight any positive attributes that would mesh well with your personality.
4. Check Out Office Workflow and Scheduling Procedures
When you choose a doctor, you're choosing the entire practice. An Advisory Board survey found that convenience factors, such as same-day appointments and online scheduling, were most important to patients. So consider whether you need after-hours appointments. Is online scheduling or an online patient portal important to you? You can answer many of these questions by looking at the office website. See if they have the services you want most, then call to ask questions.
There are other office attributes you may not realize until you show up for your first appointment. When you arrive, is the staff friendly? Are you seen within a reasonable window of your appointment time?
5. Ask Yourself if You Like the Care Provider
There's only so much you can learn from looking online. Eventually, you'll need to choose someone and make an appointment. Then it's time to ask yourself whether you feel confident in that provider selection. Did he or she listen to you? Does the doctor accommodate your cultural and personal preferences? Did the doctor take time to answer your questions?
Finding the right match is important to ensuring that you see a doctor when you need to and that you stick to their recommendations. If your first choice didn't turn out how you hoped, it's not a permanent decision. You can choose a different provider in the practice to go somewhere else next time. Just keep trying until you find the right person.