Finding a doctor you are comfortable with and trust is important to your health and well-being. Whether you have recently moved, had a bad experience with your current doctor or are new to Medicare it is worthwhile to invest time finding a doctor you can trust. A positive connection with your doctor will make you more likely to schedule routine care, ask questions about your health concerns and deal with problems you may be having with your treatment plan. Putting in some time and effort up front into finding a doctor that is a good fit for you, will help make your health care experiences more positive and ensure that if you do experience an illness you have someone in your corner who you can count on.
Consider what factors are important to you
Do you prefer a man or a woman? A more experienced doctor or someone who has recently graduated from medical school? Someone with a warm and welcoming demeanor or a more matter of fact personality? A large practice with lots of doctors you can see or a smaller one with more personal care? Do you prefer your doctor to have a similar cultural heritage to yours or is that not important? If you have any chronic conditions do you prefer a doctor with a certain speciality such as internal medicine or geriatrics? Taking a few minutes to consider what you liked and disliked about doctor’s you have had in the past can help with this process. Jot down qualities that are very important to you as well as preferences that aren’t deal breakers.
Talking to people you trust about their medical experiences is a great way to begin your search. For more useful information don’t just ask if someone likes their doctor, ask follow up questions about why and any challenges they may have had with the office. Does that doctor take time to answer questions and explain health information in an approachable way? How long does it take to schedule an appointment? Is the office staff helpful, organized and pleasant to work with? Are the offices easily accessible and comfortable?
If you have a Medicare Supplement plan you can choose any doctor that accepts Medicare. Medicare Advantage plan members are more likely to be asked to choose from a network of approved providers. Calling your plan to get this list can help narrow your search and make sure you don’t get excited about a doctor that you can’t see (without paying additional fees). You can get some help finding a doctor that accepts Medicare at Medicare.gov. This site provides information about the doctor’s fee system, contact information, education, location and sometimes performance reviews.
Narrow your search
Once you have narrowed your potential candidates to a few likely prospects it’s time to start calling offices and asking more questions. First ask if the doctor is currently accepting new patients, because if they are not you can save yourself time and move on to the next candidate. This is also an opportunity to evaluate the office staff. Are they polite and attentive or did they leave you on hold for 10 minutes? Interacting with office staff will be a significant part of your medical experience, so it’s an important factor to consider. You can also ask about office policies, payment procedures and the doctor you are considerings experience and qualifications.
If you are satisfied with the answers you receive you can consider scheduling an appointment. This will allow you to meet the doctor and ask even more questions. Some sample questions include, “What is your approach to client care?” “What percentage of your patients are older adults like me?” “What types of appointments do you offer?” “How long do you plan to continue practicing for?” It can be helpful to jot these questions down and bring a pen to take notes, so that you can review them later when making your decision. In this first visit it important to note if the doctor takes the time to listen to your questions, checks to make sure you understand the answers and spends the time necessary with you to make sure you have the answers you need. Did you feel comfortable with the doctor? Did they make an effort to get to know you and your health concerns?
If the doctor meets all your qualifications and feels like the right fit to you, congratulations, your search is over. If not, start the same process with the next doctor on the list. Developing a relationship before you get sick or have a problem will ensure you get the best possible care when you need it. Finding a doctor can take time, but getting a good one is worth it later on.
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