Choosing a Physician: Ten Things to Think About

For many people, one of the most important decisions that they may have to make in the course of dealing with illness, being hospitalized, or staying healthy through regular checkups is choosing a physician. What should you look for in a physician? How do you know when you have found the right one?

  1. Review your health insurance policy, if you have one, to see if there are restrictions on whom you may select as your physician. Check with your insurance carrier to see if it has a list of approved physicians.

  2. Ask yourself whether the gender of the physician will make a difference to you. Would you be more comfortable talking about potentially embarrassing or personal medical conditions with a male doctor or a female doctor?

  3. Ask yourself whether the age of your physician will be important. Would you like an older physician who likely has more experience than a recently graduated physician? Do you think a younger physician might be more aware of current medical technology and practices? Are you interested in building a long-term relationship with the physician? If so, you may want to make sure that the physician you choose is not close to retirement.

  4. If you are looking for a specialist, consider whether you would like them to be board-certified in that specialty. Being board-certified means that the physician has taken an extra interest in, has passed a special test concerning, and has participating in continuing education courses regarding that area of medicine.

    Note: Check your local public library for The Directory of Physicians in the United States and the Official American Board of Medical Specialties Directory of Board Certified Medical Specialists. These two books contain lists of board-certified physicians. Look to see if a physician you are "interviewing" is in either or both of them.

  5. Ask yourself whether you are concerned about the availability of the physician after-hours. What would happen if you needed to speak to your doctor in an emergency? Can you call him or her directly? Is he or she unavailable at night or on weekends to talk to you?

  6. Ask yourself whether the physician's work hours match up with your own hours of availability. Many physicians have only certain limited periods of time each day or week that they see patients. Will the physician be able to see you when you are available to come to the office? Also, consider whether you like the office staff. Are they polite and competent? Consider whether the office is located in a convenient place. Determine what hospitals the physician has privileges with. What is the reputation of those hospitals?

  7. Ask yourself whether the physician's "bedside" manner is important to you. Do you want a physician who is all business, or would you like a physician who takes the time to inquire about your personal and family life before discussing your medical condition and health? Does the physician answer your questions thoroughly and in a way that you can understand? Does he or she seem put off when you ask him or her a question?

  8. Ask yourself whether you feel the physician respects you and your opinions. Although the physician may be the party with the medical knowledge, you are the party with the medical need. If you do not feel comfortable asserting your rights or discussing your opinions with a particular physician, he or she may not be the physician for you.

  9. Ask yourself if you want to know the physician's track record. In most areas, you can contact you're the medical licensing authority and ask that it run a search for any disciplinary cases taken against the physician. If you know anyone who is a patient of that physician, ask them for their honest opinion of the care and attention they are receiving.

  10. Above all else, ask yourself whether you can trust the physician. When we are ill or hospitalized, we must place an extraordinary amount of trust in our physicians. Do you trust this particular physician to act in a professional and competent matter? Do you trust him or her to understand your condition and treat it in the most effective manner? Do you trust him or her to listen to your wishes concerning your medical care and treatment?

Next Steps

Contact a qualified health care attorney to help navigate legal issues around your health care.

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