Choosing the right doctor for you is one of the most critical decisions you’ll make for your health. The right doctor will take the time to understand your medical history, answer your questions, and be able to openly speak with you about treatment options for any illnesses you may encounter. This decision process is one of the most common reasons to work alongside an advocate—when you’re putting your health into your doctor’s hands, you need to find someone capable whom you can fully trust.
What should you consider before selecting a new physician? Here’s where to start:
Before choosing a doctor
Understand the basics
There are several reputable sites where you can find basic information on a potential doctor; you may find this directly on the provider’s website, or you can search Medicare.gov, your state’s licensing board, (for California this is mbc.ca.gov/). You’ll be able to see where your doctor attended school and their license information, and you may be able to find general commentary and reviews from other patients.
Do enough research to get a full picture of their story and their style. Do they interact with their patients in a warm, friendly manner? How do they approach prescribing medications? These first steps will give you an understanding on whether this practitioner might be a good fit for your needs, or if you should keep looking.
Consider insurance or out-of-pocket rates
Arguably just as important as making sure the doctor’s approach works for you is making sure that the office accepts your insurance or lists their out-of-pocket rates. If you can’t find answers online, you can call the office to verify this information.
Many doctors, particularly specialists, have long waitlists to even get in the door. You’ll want to call the office or look into online scheduling to make sure that your preferred new physician is accepting new patients right now. If you’re experiencing symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor sooner rather than later. Most offices will provide recommendations to other providers if their patient list is full.
If you’re considering something sophisticated or experiencing unique symptoms, you should do a deeper dive into your doctor’s personal research history. Do they have knowledge in the areas you’re concerned about? Take the time to understand their specific areas of expertise before you make this important decision.
At your first visit
Bring your patience
Each office is different, but given the unpredictable nature of appointments, you should likely expect a wait when you arrive; this is, unfortunately, one of the consequences of the burdened U.S. healthcare system. Give yourself a bit of extra time.
Make sure you feel heard
When you see your doctor, critically evaluate your visit. Is the physician actively listening to what you have to say? Are they willing to pause and ensure that you understand what they’re saying? For this reason in particular, many people like to be accompanied to each appointment by a health advocate—someone who can listen with a knowledgeable and impartial ear to anything your doctor tells you. This is particularly relevant when seeing a doctor for a critical procedure or any important medical decision.
When a physician proposes a treatment or procedure, it’s important to ask questions. What is their confidence interval? Have they performed this procedure before? Are there other cases with relevant markers that have achieved your ideal outcome? A quality doctor will embrace thorough questioning and provide encompassing answers to give you confidence in their abilities.
After your visit
Evaluate your experience
After your appointment, take some time for reflection and ask yourself a few core questions. Did you come away with a clear diagnosis and an understanding of next steps? Did you feel like you were heard, or were you hurried through the office and ignored? When you’ve found the right doctor for you, you should feel confident with your choice.
If thinking through this process seems like a lot, you’re not alone. Solace can help. Go to solace.health and find an advocate today who can help you navigate the best healthcare providers and find the right doctor for your situation.
Sara has led creative, brand, marketing and product teams for some of the fastest-growing startups in the U.S. She has written for multiple billionaires, international NBA stars and Nobel Prize winners and is brought to you mostly by multiple shots of espresso, administered daily.