Some Tips for Choosing Your Doctor

Posted on March 9, 2014

One of my clients told me how she found her new primary care physician through the online rating sites of Vitals and Healthgrades.  This is very risky process for choosing a new physician.

Recently, there has been a great deal of coverage about how dangerous reliance on these sites can be.  See this Blog warning about the dangers of using online doctor ratings.

Finding a doctor is one of the most important searches you will ever undertake.  You are entrusting your health and your medical care to a physician that you are about to hire.  The research that you do to find a new doctor ought to be carefully planned and researched.  It’s not a good idea to go to Dr. Jones just because she has 4.5 stars on Healthgrades or because your neighbor likes her. You need more objective information to find a doctor who is reputable, competent and well matched to your needs and care goals.

Gathering basic information is a good starting point. For example, where did the physician go to medical school?  Where did he/she complete residency? At which hospitals does the doctor have admitting privileges? What papers has the doctor published?  Check your state’s medical board website for licensing and malpractice information.

Also, U.S. New’s Top Doctors can identify doctors recommended by their peers based on their clinical skills, including how well they relate to patients, and other qualifications such as education, training and hospital appointments.

Once you have narrowed the list to a few physicians, call each medical office and evaluate its efficiency. What is the demeanor and cordiality of the office staff?  How long does it take to get an appointment with the doctor?  What is the average wait time to see the doctor?  Are lab work and x-rays done in the office? Are weekend hours available? Does the doctor work in a physician-owned practice or a practice owned by a hospital? Does the doctor have nurses on staff?  Inquire about emergency coverage on weekends, holidays and nights.

If you are satisfied with the answers you receive, then place an introductory call to the doctor.  Many physicians welcome this sort of call to help decide if the doctor is a good fit for your needs.  Ask questions about the physician’s style of practice. Does the doctor consider patients as partners in their care?  How much time is spent educating patients about their illness and treatment plan? What if you have questions or don’t agree with a treatment recommendation; how is that handled? Does the doctor have email correspondence with patients?

Pay attention to the willingness of the doctor to provide information. Did the doctor listen carefully to your questions? Were your questions answered clearly and respectfully without impatience or defensiveness?  Listen to your instincts. Then make a well informed decision about which doctor is right for you.