Going to the doctor is never fun. Yet for most of our lives, we’ve at least known who to go to. Once you hit adulthood, however, your pediatrician will kindly tell you that you’re getting a bit too old for his or her office. Now you have to start the daunting task of finding a new doctor. How on earth does one go about this? How do you know whom to trust to examine your body and treat any medical conditions? These questions terrified me too, but I’ve got some tips to help you find a doctor in your area.
Decide What You Want
Before you even begin your search to find a doctor, you should figure out what exactly you are looking for. Is it a general practitioner to replace your pediatrician? Are you looking for a specialist for a specific condition you have? Would you like to use a gynecologist as your primary care physician, as many women choose to do, or do you want to use a separate doctor?
Also, consider the criteria you would like this doctor to meet. Would you prefer a female doctor? Would you rather a younger doctor, who might be more attuned to new practices and is more relatable? Or would you prefer an older doctor who seems more experienced? How much does their schooling matter to you? How close do they have to be to you, and how flexible do you need their hours to be? Once you consider these questions, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
Ask For Recommendations
A great way to start your search to find a doctor of any kind is to start asking around in your area. Where do your friends go, your co-workers? If you are still living with or near your parents, ask their friends where they go. If you’re going to be living near your old pediatrician, ask them if they have any suggestions. Since they've known you for so long, they’ll probably know best who might fit your specific needs. Getting a personal recommendation can be helpful, because if you already know and trust the person recommending a doctor to you, you’ll feel better trusting their doctor.
However, be aware that someone who might work for your friends and neighbors may not be the best doctor for you. They might prefer someone wise and experienced, but who seems a little out of touch to you, whereas you might prefer someone younger. Or vice versa. So asking for recommendations is a good place to start, but even so, you may not end up with a doctor that fits with your needs right away.
Do Some Research
That’s when you turn to our great friend Google. A great place to start looking to find a doctor is a search tool within your insurance’s website. If you have insurance, it’s important to find a doctor who will take that insurance, as not all will take the same insurance. You don’t want to end up paying for a doctor out of pocket if you can help it. Plus, your insurance likely won’t recommend doctors with terrible reputations.
If you don’t have insurance, you can start with Google and by reading reviews. Once you pick a few you’re interested in, you also might ask around your personal network, to see if anyone has heard of the doctor you have in mind. That way, you can get some more personal thoughts on them.
Be Wary of Warning Signs
The last thing you want when trying to find a doctor is to end up with someone terrible or untrustworthy. That’s why you should be careful to look out for certain warning signs. Check to see if the doctor you have in mind has any malpractice claims against them—several should definitely make you pause and reconsider.
You also might want to look into where this doctor went to medical school. If his or her medical school was not very prestigious, or if it was not in the United States, you should consider why this might be. It could mean he or she might not be as competent, or there could be another perfectly valid reason for their lack of prestigious education, such as a lack of access to the best schools. However, it’s a good thing to keep in the back of your mind as you move on to the next step.
Call the Office
The best way to check to see if the doctor you have in mind is a good fit is by making an appointment. You of course want to make sure the doctor is accepting new patients. Once you’ve confirmed this, ask to make an appointment to come in to meet the doctor. There you can get a feel for what his or her personality is like, what the office environment is like, and whether or not you feel comfortable with him or her. If you decide it’s a good fit, great! Then you can start making appointments there! If not, don’t worry, they won’t take it personally and you can just move on to your next option.
Find a Specialist
Once you’ve found your new primary care physician, you can move on searching for any specialists you might need. The search follows much of the same steps, though once you have a primary care physician it’s usually easiest to first ask them for a recommendation. They will know your health best and the specifics of your condition. But it’s still important to go try out any new doctor to determine if you like them. If not, don’t be afraid to ask you doctor for another recommendation. Your health and comfort is the most important thing!
It can be daunting to try to find a doctor, but it doesn’t have to be difficult! Doctors want to help you, and there are plenty of resources out there to help you find the right one. Just follow these tips, and you’ll be on your way to finding the perfect doctor in no time. Good luck!