If you can manage the time, it’s a good idea to schedule a get-acquainted visit with a few doctors before you commit yourself to one. As always, start by asking friends and family for recommendations. Then call several physicians in your insurance plan to find out if they’re taking new patients. Schedule a short visit and offer to pay for the time. This investment will pay dividends if it helps you find a doctor you trust and feel comfortable with.
Questions to Ask Before You Schedule a Visit
- Where did the doctor go to school? Did he go to a reputable medical school? Did she complete three years of residency training in her advertised area of expertise? The AMA has an on-line service called
, where you can check education and training on any licensed physician in the country.
- Is the doctor board-certified for her type of practice? Board certification means the doctor has received advanced training and passed rigorous qualifying exams. But some doctors may emphasize board certification and fail to mention that it’s in a field they no longer do much work in. To check board certification on a physician you’re considering, call the American Board of Medical Specialties at 800-776-CERT (2378) or go to its
- What hospitals is the doctor affiliated with? Is one of them convenient to your home? Does it have a good reputation?
Questions to Ask at the Doctor’s Office
- Am I comfortable with the doctor’s staff? The way you are treated by the staff makes a big difference to your experience with the doctor, of course. And it’s often a reliable indication of the doctor’s concern for patients as people, rather than as bodies. Pay attention to the atmosphere behind the reception desk: Does the staff seem efficient? Are they helpful in person and on the telephone?
- Do you require full payment from me or will you wait for direct payment from my insurance company? There isn’t necessarily a right answer to this (unless you’re on Medicare, in which case the doctor should wait to be paid by them). It’s a matter of your preference and financial situation.
Questions for the Doctor
- What is your approach to health care? Is the doctor oriented toward prevention? Does he ask questions about your lifestyle and health habits and discuss various ways you might improve your health? Does he see himself as your partner, collaborating with you on achieving your health and well-being?
- What happens when you’re away? Ask the doctor who covers for her when she’s on vacation and during weekends and days off. Ask why the person has been selected and don’t be afraid to quiz the doctor about the substitute’s credentials.
- How often will I need checkups? The answer to this question should be based on your age, general health, and medical and family history
- What tests do you regularly order and what do you check for? Does the doctor explain the tests and the reason for doing them in a way that’s easy to understand?
- Can I bring a family member or friend into the examination room? This is a reasonable request and your primary care physician should be open to it if you’d like to do it