Finding a Doctor is like Finding Nemo (It’s challenging and scary)
Having lived in Boca Raton, FL for 40 years, one of our biggest concerns with moving from South to Central Florida was finding good healthcare providers. Being – ahem – of mature years and having survived a plethora of medical mayhem we knew that our future would probably include more of the same.
There were lots of discussions and more than a modicum of fear as to whether to move or stay where we knew and trusted our doctors. But the desire to be with family and falling in love with a home 2 miles from the “kids” helped us throw “caution to the wind”.
So we took a leap of faith and moved. Now what? I was nervous about living in a totally new town and not having doctors in place. Finding a good health care provider was like being Marlin in the movie Finding Nemo where he set out to find his son, Nemo amidst the vast, dark, murky waters of the medical ocean. However, armed with the right questions and information I knew that we would find our way to good health care. After all, we weren’t moving to an uninhabited island.
I began by asking my daughter and son in law, then my new neighbors, church members and anyone that seemed knowledgeable and willing to talk to me. I did a computer search on several medical websites and even Angie’s List to read the reviews, checked their credentials and their hospital affiliations. Then I checked their websites and looked for their specialties, policies and practices to see that they lined up with my needs.
It didn’t hurt (well, actually it did) that I dislocated my left hip not once, but twice; as it provided me with a good orthopedic doctor and hospital that I liked. My daughter referred me to a chiropractor, and the chiropractor’s office manager shared her positive 20 year experience with her general practitioner. I found my oncologist by searching for physicians with breast cancer research and found one who happens to be affiliated with the Florida Cancer Specialist I used in South Florida. So my records were already accessible to her.
The following is from The American Board of Medicine Specialties – a wonderful resource for patients. You can find it at http://www.certificationmatters.org/take-charge-of-your-health-care.aspx
When you choose a doctor, it’s important to find someone who will be a valued partner in your care. You want someone you can trust and communicate comfortably with to help you to stay healthy or recover from an illness or injury. Here are three key steps to follow when choosing a doctor for yourself or a family member:
How to Find a Health Care Provider
- Decide what qualities and services matter most to you. These may include having a doctor or surgeon who:
- Is well-trained and experienced in the specialty in which you need care
- Provides clear explanations of conditions and treatments, and welcomes questions
- Uses technology to improve care and communication
- Has convenient office location and office hours
- Is part of your health care plan
- Has privileges at the hospital of your choice
- Compile a list of potential choices
- Ask your current doctors or other health professionals for recommendations
- Ask family members, co-workers and friends for recommendations
- Search https://www.certificationmatters.org/is-your-doctor-board-certified/search-now.aspx to find Board Certified doctors by specialty or location
- Request a list of doctors from your health insurance provider
- Contact the doctor referral service at your preferred hospital
- Check with the medical society of the specialty you are looking for
- Do your homework
- Check the doctor’s qualifications – visit CertificationMatters.org
- Use the Web to research the doctor
- Develop a list of questions on topics and concerns important to you
- Talk with the office staff and/or the doctor on the phone or schedule a face-to-face visit, (there may be a charge for an in-person visit)
- Once you’ve selected a doctor, make the most of your visits by properly preparing and following up
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
Here are some important questions to ask if you’re interviewing a doctor or seeing a new doctor for the first time. If you already have an established relationship with a doctor, you may know the answers to most of these questions. If not, take some time during your next visit to learn the answers.
- Are you Board Certified? If you are Board Certified, by which Board? In which specialty?
- Where did you attend medical school?
- How long have you been in practice?
- Which hospitals do you use? Are they accredited?
- What are your office hours?
- Who covers for you when you are unavailable?
- How long does it usually take to get a routine appointment?
- How long is the typical office wait?
- Will I have to pay if I cancel an appointment?
- Does the office send reminders about prevention tests?
- What do I do if I need urgent care or have an emergency?
- Do you or someone in your office speak the language that I am most comfortable using?
- Do you (or a nurse or physician assistant) give advice over the phone for common medical problems?
- Do you use electronic medical records?
- Do you perform routine X-rays and laboratory services in your office?
- Do you survey your patients? How do you use the findings?
Whether life presents you with opportunities like dislocating your hip or your neighbors give you a “heads up”, do your due diligence and research, ask, visit, and evaluate the doctor. After all, as the doctor evaluates your health as a patient, so should you evaluate the competency, professionalism and personality of the doctor.
Armed with good research you’ll soon find your “Nemo” amidst the vast ocean called healthcare.