U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Choosing a Doctor: Quick tips

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

When you and your doctor work together as a team, you’ll get better health care. Try the following tips to find a doctor who’s right for you.

Ask for recommendations from people you know.

Getting a reference from someone you know and trust is a great way to find a doctor.

  • Ask friends, family members, neighbors, or coworkers if they have a doctor they like.
  • If you are looking for a new doctor because yours is retiring or moving, ask your current doctor for a recommendation.

Check with your insurance company.

If you have health insurance, you may need to choose a doctor in their network. Some insurance plans may let you choose a doctor outside the network if you pay more of the cost.

  • Call your insurance company and ask for a list of local doctors who take your insurance plan.
  • Find out if your insurance company has a website you can use to search for a local doctor who sees people with your plan.

If you don’t have health insurance, you’ll have to pay for health care "out of pocket" (on your own). This can be very expensive. For help finding insurance, visit https://www.healthcare.gov/.

Learn more about your top choices.

Make a list of the doctors you have in mind. Call their offices to learn more about them. The answers to the following questions may help you make the best decision.

Questions about the doctor:

  • Is the doctor taking new patients?
  • Is the doctor part of a group practice? Who are the other doctors?
  • Who will see you if your doctor isn’t available?
  • Which hospital does the doctor use?
  • If you have a medical condition, does the doctor have experience treating it?

Questions about the office:

  • Do they offer evening or weekend appointments?
  • What is the cancellation policy?
  • How long will it take to get an appointment?
  • How long do appointments usually last?
  • Can you get lab work and x-rays done in the office?
  • If you are more comfortable speaking in a language besides English, is there a doctor or nurse who speaks that language?

Think about your experience after the first visit.

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.