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Your Health Care

4 Tips to Choosing the Right Doctor

July 30, 2017

Choosing a doctor is an important part of your health and well-being. Whether it’s a primary care doctor or a specialist, the right doctor can serve as your confidante, advisor and partner in maintaining your good health. Here are four tips to help you choose the right doctor:

Tip 1: Get Referrals

Start by asking family members and friends for recommendations. Ask about qualities that are important to you: Does the doctor spend time answering questions? Do they explain things thoroughly? Ask any health providers you already know and feel comfortable with for recommendations, since they're more likely to understand your needs and know doctors who might be a good fit. Once you get a few names, check for online reviews.

Tip 2: Stay in Your Network

Find out which doctors are in your insurance plan's network. These doctors have negotiated rates with your insurer that will reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Doctors who are out-of-network don't have these contracts, which means you could be hit with additional medical bills that you'll have to pay out-of-pocket. If your plan is a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), you may have to consult your primary care doctor before you can see a specialist.

Tip 3: Review Education and Experience

Look at a doctor’s education and experience. Where did he or she attend medical school? Where did they complete their residency? How long have they been practicing medicine?

A certification can tell you if a doctor specializes in a particular field. Most doctors in the United States are board certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties. Special topics of study range from "allergy and immunology" to "urology." Primary care doctors can be board-certified in family or internal medicine. Doctors who specialize in children's health care are board-certified in pediatrics. Look for red flags like malpractice claims or disciplinary actions.

Tip 4: Call or Visit

Call or visit the doctor's office to see if it’s right for you. Is it in a convenient location? How long is the wait to get an appointment? Do they offer same-day appointments? Does the doctor usually run on schedule? Is the office staff helpful and respectful?

You can also schedule a consultation to meet the doctor in person, ask questions and decide whether you feel comfortable with his or her communication style. You might have to pay a copay or out-of-pocket fee, but a 15-minute meeting can be a worthwhile investment. Choosing the right doctor can help smooth the way to better health and wellness for years to come.