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Choosing a Doctor: Ten Things to Consider

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 doctor. This is especially true if you have medical concerns or an ongoing condition that requires specific expertise. For instance, someone with diabetes may want to seek out a primary care doctor who has extensive experience treating diabetic patients. Your choices may be restricted by your medical plan, geographic location, or other factors; but it's important to find someone who best meets your needs and respects your rights as a patient.

So, what should you look for in a physician and how do you know when you've found the right one? The following is a list of ten things to think about when choosing a doctor.

1. Start with a List of Approved Physicians

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. Is the Gender of the Doctor Important to You?

Would you be more comfortable talking about potentially embarrassing or personal medical conditions with a male doctor or a female doctor? Furthermore, would you be more comfortable with a doctor of the same gender for certain routines such as pap smears and prostate exams?

3. Is the Age of the Doctor Important to You?

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. Need a Specialist? Do Your Homework

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. Check physicians' certification status online at Certification Matters, provided by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

5. Do You Want a Doctor Who's Available After-Hours?

What would happen if you needed to speak to your doctor in an emergency? Can you call them directly? Are they unavailable at night or on weekends to talk to you?

6. Are the Doctor's Work Hours Compatible with Yours?

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 the office is located in a convenient place. Determine what hospitals the physician has privileges with. What is the reputation of those hospitals?

7. Is the Doctor's 'Bedside Manner' 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? Do they seem put off when you ask them a question?

8. Does the Physician Respect You and Your Opinions?

Although the doctor may be the party with the medical knowledge, you're the party with the medical need. If you don't feel comfortable asserting your rights or discussing your opinions with a particular physician, they may not be the right one for you.

9. Learn About Their Track Record

In most areas, you can contact 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're receiving.

10. Can You Trust the Doctor?

When we're ill, injured, or hospitalized, we must place an extraordinary amount of trust in our physicians. Do you trust this particular doctor to act in a professional and competent manner? Do you trust them to understand your condition and treat it in the most effective manner? Do you trust them to listen to your wishes concerning your medical care and treatment? Also, are you concerned they may not be protecting the privacy of your health care information?

Get Professional Legal Help with Your Health Care-Related Concern

Choosing a doctor shouldn't be taken lightly, since it concerns the quality of your health care and could very well be a matter of life or death. But if you have other concerns, such as a breach of your personal medical information or some other legal issue, you should consider reaching out to a local health care attorney.

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