The ideal family practitioner should be someone you trust and are comfortable talking with; someone you can turn to when making important decisions about your family’s healthcare.
Finding the perfect match for your family, however, can be challenging. Whether you are new to the neighborhood, your current physician will soon be leaving her practice or you simply need a change, here are some methods to find a new doctor.
Refine Your Search
Family practitioners work within a very wide scope of services, providing care to all ages from infants to senior citizens. Because some family practitioners choose to work with specific populations while others don’t, it is important to know exactly what you’re looking for when choosing a doctor.
If you are pregnant or expect to start a family soon, decide whether or not you want your family doctor to handle all of your needs, from obstetrics to gynecology – and later, pediatric needs. It is important to ask potential providers which of these services they provide, and which services they refer. Some family practitioners, for example, will handle general gynecological services – pap smears, pelvic exams, etc. – as well as pediatrics, but do not deliver babies.
If you’re not sure where to start when searching for a new family doctor, ask around. Check in with family and friends to find out who they use. New to the neighborhood and don’t know anyone yet? If you have children, ask teachers and other parents at school and daycare. See if your former doctor has suggestions for your new neighborhood.
Do your homework. Go online and research local consumer report. Visit hospitals in the area; drive by, stop in the lobby, check out the hospital website to see what kinds of services they provide. If you can see yourself turning to a particular hospital in an emergency, look for a family doc who is on staff there.
See if a potential new doctor is a good fit for your family by visiting his practice. Observe the waiting room. Are they set up for children? Do you see patients of all ages and genders? What are the hours? Will the doctor’s schedule work with your work schedule? Are they accepting new patients, and if so, is it with the doctor you are hoping to partner with or would you be placed with another physician in the practice? Does the staff seem to be friendly and welcoming?
Listen to them, if possible, as they schedule new appointments and field phone calls. Finding the right doctor is only part of the equation; you need to feel comfortable with the entire team.
Questions to Ask
Gather important questions to pose when you visit the office for the first time. Some of these could include how much time patients usually spend in the waiting room to see the doctor, what happens when the doctor is on vacation and how accessible the doctor / staff is. Is there a nurse on-call to answer questions? Can you communicate via email, and if so, how soon should you expect a response? Ask yourself some questions as well. Will all of your family members be comfortable seeing this doctor? Does the doctor’s age or gender play a factor in your comfort level?
Partner with Your Insurance Provider
Your insurance company is a good place to start when looking for a new family doctor. Many insurance companies provide directories of all their providers, listing their credentials and areas of specialty. Check with your insurance company to see if the doctor you are considering is a good match for your plan, as expenses – copays and deductibles – can vary greatly depending on whether or not your doctor is in your network.
In today’s world of technology, it is possible for you to research your doctor’s qualifications yourself as well as review the results of surveys and opinions provided by other patients.
Comprehensive information about your provider’s education and qualifications can be found on websites like American Medical Association DoctorFinder and the American Board of Medical Specialties.