How Do You Choose a Doctor?

Choosing a doctor is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life.

You need to be happy with the medical treatment you receive from your doctor, and you need to like him or her on a personal level too.  In the long run, it will be good if you do as much research as you can in the beginning to be sure you find the right match in your primary care physician (PCP) or specialist the first time.  You must be confident in his or her ability to take care of you and your family.

When you choose a doctor for yourself or a loved one, make sure to choose a doctor you can trust. 

A Primary Care Physician (PCP) Can:

  • Help you make important decisions, like which screening tests and shots to get
  • Treat many health problems
  • Refer you to a specialist when you need more help with a specific health issue

When you are choosing a doctor, look for someone who:

  • Treats you with respect
  • Listens to your opinions and concerns
  • Encourages you to ask questions
  • Explains things in ways you can understand

Ask for recommendations from people you know.

Avoid just selecting a doctor at random from your provider list or out of the phone book.  Getting a reference from someone you know and trust is a great way to find a doctor or mental health professional.

  • Ask friends, family members, neighbors, or co-workers if they have a doctor they like and would recommend to you and your family.
  • If you are looking for a new doctor because yours is retiring or moving, ask your current doctor for a recommendation.

Do you have a health concern that needs a special doctor?

If you're picking a doctor to care for a specific condition or heath concern you or your family is dealing with, ask about how often he or she treats cases similar to yours. Be certain the doctor has clinical training or experience in the area related to your specific situation.

Ask the doctor about any specialty board certification they possess, which shows they have advanced training in specialized areas and more knowledge in treating specific medical conditions.

Be sure the doctor is part of your network and can meet your individual needs.

Before you make an appointment and go to the doctor, make sure that he or she is part of our network.

Be sure to consider other preferences you may have when selecting the doctor such as location of the office (how close is the office to your home or work) and are they open when you need them (do they have hours later in the weekday or are they open on Saturday). 

By thinking about everything that is important to you before selecting your doctor, you will be more satisfied with your decision when you need treatment.  When you and your doctor work together as a team, you’ll get better health care.  By taking charge of your health, you should feel free to ask questions at the doctor’s office to get better care.

Call your top choices.

Once you have a few doctors in mind, call their offices to learn more about them.  The answers to the following questions may help you make a decision:

  • Is the doctor taking new patients?
  • How long will it take to get an appointment?
  • How long do appointments usually last?
  • Is the doctor part of a group practice? Who are the other doctors?
  • Who will see you if the doctor isn’t available?
  • Which hospital does the doctor use?
  • Can you get lab work and x-rays done in the office?
  • What is the office’s cancellation policy?
  • If you have a medical condition, does the doctor have experience treating it?
  • If you are more comfortable speaking to a doctor in a language besides English, is there a doctor or nurse who speaks that language?
  • Does the doctor offer evening or weekend appointments?

Ask yourself these questions after the first appointment.

Did the doctor and office staff:

  • Make you feel comfortable during your appointment
  • Spend enough time with you
  • Give you a chance to ask questions
  • Answer your questions clearly

If you answer “no” to any of these questions, you may want to keep looking.