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How Do I Choose A Doctor?

If you have never established yourself as a patient with a primary care physician, or your current doctor is retiring, you will be in the market for a new one. It will take a little research--and perhaps a few false starts--to find a doctor you trust and with whom you feel you can freely share all your health concerns.

  • Communication Style - Start by making a list of the qualities you seek in a doctor. You may prefer one that is straightforward with "just the facts," or you may be driven away by such directness and seek a doctor with a gentle bedside manner.
  • Experience - You may be more comfortable with a doctor that has years of experience, or you may prefer a young doctor who may be more open to new treatments.
  • Type of Doctor - Your age is a factor in the type of doctor you select. A general practitioner is able to treat a wide range of medical issues for all ages. A family doctor may be a good choice if you want one physician to oversee the health of all family members. Either of these may also specialize in geriatrics, care of the elderly. A doctor that specializes in internal medicine can meet the needs of an adult. A pediatrician specializes in health care for children.
  • In-Network Considerations - Your choice may be limited by your health plan's provider network. Consult your health insurance company's provider directory, which may be found on the company website, to determine which doctors and health care facilities are covered under your plan.
  • Recommendations from Friends and Family - One of your best sources of information about local doctors is family and friends. Ask what they like or dislike about their doctors. How long does it take to get an appointment? Is the office staff courteous and professional? The location and hours of a doctor's office is also an important consideration.
  • Searching Online - Another resource for finding a doctor is the internet. One helpful site, for example, may be the Administrators in Medicine's DocFinder. This tool provides doctor profiles including education and certifications.
  • Personal Considerations - Is the gender of your doctor an important consideration for you? What about the age of your doctor? Sometimes people are more comfortable sharing personal health concerns with a doctor who is the same gender, or similar in age.

What's Next?

Once you identify a possible candidate, call to confirm the doctor takes your insurance and determine if he or she is accepting new patients. You may want to ask questions about the offices's physical facilities such as parking and proximity to labs where your will be required to go for testing. Once you have selected a doctor, set up an appointment to establish yourself as a patient. This will be a getting-to-know you visit. The doctor will gather information about your medical history and you can discuss any current health concerns you may have. The personal interaction at this meeting will help you decide if this is the doctor for you.

Gillian Burdett is a freelance writer covering all things home and living. Her work can be found on

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