So now that you know how to choose the right doctor (or other provider), how do you find one? That can be difficult. I was lucky. I found the first anchor of my network on TV. He was on a local news segment talking about inhaler insulin back when we thought that was going to be the next big thing. And he worked in a university clinic, which meant that he took my insurance.
If you already have a doctor you like, finding another one in a different specialty is a little easier than if you don’t. Ask for a referral. Doctors generally have extensive networks: colleagues, classmates, partners. It’s not always a match, but if you like your doctor, and your doctor thinks highly of another medical professional, there’s a good chance that person will be a good fit.
That’s what I did when the aforementioned doctor moved on. After over a decade, I was in his office trying to connect him with another provider (I thought they could help each other). That’s when I found out that he was only going to be in practice for another three weeks. He was leaving for a big drug company, which made sense since I knew his heart was really in research, but didn’t help my state of mind. I was upset, and a little shocked. I am so resistant to change. Anything that shakes my comfort zone requires tons of advanced notice and a lot of time to mentally prepare. Thank goodness there are months between visits! I asked for a recommendation, and when I couldn’t get an appointment because she wasn’t taking new patients, he was kind enough to make a phone call to get me in the door.
Then there was the time my specialist got tired of treating me for every cough and sniffle. He knew how particular I was about my doctors, so he gave me the name of his General Practitioner. The theory was that if the General Practitioner was good enough for my doctor, he was good enough for me. Fair enough, but I waited. And waited. And waited until I really needed a General Practitioner, and knew that my specialist wouldn’t see me for the flu. By the time I called for an appointment, the doctor whose name I’d been given had retired. (That’s typical for me.) I was desperate, so I went to see the doctor who had been hired to replace him. Lucky again—it turned out to be a great fit! So good, in fact, that I drive 25 miles through two states and the District of Columbia to see him.
But maybe you’ve just moved or you haven’t been to a doctor for a while, or the one(s) you have don’t fit as well as you would like. What then? Where to start your network?
Do your research. If you live close to a university like that has a medical school, like Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD, or a big research center like the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, or the Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, OH, start with their staff. The doctors there are on the cutting edges of their specialties, and often take new patients.
If you don’t have a resource like that or it is too far away, I recommend starting with a site like healthgrades. Decide what is important to you. Considering the following factors may be helpful:
- Board certification
- Years of experience
- Whether they take your insurance
- Past or pending malpractice claims
Don’t forget to read the crowdsourced reviews, too, but be sure to take them with a grain of salt. Often those who take the time to comment are the ones who had experiences at the fringes of the satisfaction scale: they are either very pleased or completely put off. Likely the majority of patients are happy enough but haven’t taken the time to post a review.
When you are satisfied that you have the information you need, rank your top three candidates. Make an appointment and you’re ready to go!