Choosing a Doctor: Quick tips

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 stay healthy by recommending preventive services, like screening tests and shots
  • Treat many health problems
  • Refer you to a specialist when you need more help with a specific health issue

When you and your doctor work together as a team, you’ll get better health care. Look for a doctor who:

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

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 from a list of doctors in their network (doctors that take your insurance plan). 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 – or use the insurance company’s website to search for a doctor.
  • Once you have checked with your insurance company, call the doctor’s office, too. Ask them to confirm that they take your specific health 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? If so, who are the other doctors that might sometimes see or help treat you?
  • 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?
  • Does the doctor have special training or certifications?

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?
  • Explain things in a way that was easy to understand?
  • Listen carefully to you?
  • Spend enough time with you?
  • Give you a chance to ask questions?

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