How to Pick Your New Doctor
There are many reasons you may be in the market for a new doctor. You might be new to the area, your previous doctor might have retired or you’re looking for a doctor that better fits your individual needs. Or, perhaps you changed insurance companies and now have found your previous physician is out of network. Selecting a new doctor can be a stressful process. Let’s try to minimize that stress.
Your first step should be to review your insurance requirements. Many plans require that you maintain a Primary Care Provider (PCP) from within your plan’s network and it may also require that specialists be seen only after seeing your primary care provider for a referral. Even if there is no requirement to pick a primary care provider or for referrals, your “family” doctor will usually be the first one to see you when you are feeling unwell or have had a rapid change in health. They often make the initial diagnosis or catch conditions even if they want you to get help from a specialist. They can be a great resource in picking a specialist later if needed.
Let’s focus on the Primary Care Provider for now since most of your visits will be with this person.
Most insurance companies have a provider directory that you can review for listings of physicians to consider. Network Health’s Medicare Advantage plan provider directory can be found here our other members can look here.
When choosing your new doctor, you may want to consider the advice of family or friends. You can also use websites like healthgrades.com to look for reviews, but in the end, the fit is about your personal choices. You may appreciate behaviors that others are bothered by. One friend might feel a physician “talked down to them” by making an explanation too simple but other friends may like them breaking it down into non-medical terms. Don’t be shy about changing if the fit isn’t right.
So what’s in a name (or title)?
You may see some providers listed as internal medicine, family practice or general practitioner. All are eligible to be your PCP. These labels refer to residency or training received. Typically, general practice is the least descriptive in terms of focus but may still be a great match for you. A doctor in family practice typically made their focus on a range of needs so children, men and women’s health needs and often is more of a focus on preventive health. An Internal Medicine doctor usually indicates a stronger focus on identifying and treating conditions. What about a Nurse practitioner? They also can be your PCP and while they have extensive medical training also often started working as LPN or RNs and may retain that nursing feel of care.
What about if they are an OD vs MD? An MD or Medical Doctor is the more “traditional” path and may be more targeted in their treatments, Osteopaths tend to view the body as more of a system and work holistically including more attention to lifestyle and environment factors as well.
These are just general thoughts so don’t let them stop you from seeing someone you are interested in selecting.
Location, location, location. We’ve heard it for years in real estate, but it makes sense with our doctors too. Are they easy to get to from your home? What hospital do they have admitting privileges at or are they affiliated with? Is the rest of the office staff responsive when you call or show up? It takes a team to serve our modern medical needs from accurate billing to managing timely appointments, so be sure you like not just the doctor, but are comfortable with the full location or facility.
So finally, I’d like to recommend looking at stability. It’s no fun picking a new doctor so who wants to do it again? It’s difficult to know which doctors will move away but you can help your chances by selecting physicians with a longstanding connection with your insurance. While many insurance networks change regularly, Network Health has one of the highest provider satisfaction ratings in the country. That means providers stay with us whenever possible. Also, we are lucky enough to have shared ownership between Freodtert Health and Ascension Health which means you can count on these doctors staying with us.
I hope that has given you a few things to think over and I wish you well in your search. If you have any questions or your own advice, make sure to post below.