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Selecting a Doctor (cont.)

Prioritize Requirements

The best choices are usually made after some research. Try writing down the requirements you have for a doctor and then order each according to how important it is to you. Then proceed to research the possibilities using the information sources available to you.

Consider your answers to these questions:

  • Do I need a primary care doctor (family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, OB/GYN) or a specialist (such as cardiologist [heart], pulmonologist [lungs], gastroenterologist [liver and intestines], oncologist [cancer])? (Again, when seeking a specialist, the best referral source is your primary care physician.)
  • Some health plans require you to see a primary care doctor before being referred to a specialist. It is usually better to start your medical treatment with a primary care physician who then can make referrals as necessary.
  • Is the doctor board certified? Board certification is based on the completion of a minimum amount of training as well as the passing of a rigorous exam. In many specialties, it also assures that the doctor continues their education by passing ongoing exams or participating in medical education events.
  • Which health plan or hospital is the doctor affiliated with? Is it a preferred provider in your health plan?
  • Where is the office or hospital location?
  • Who covers for the doctor when he or she is away or after hours?
  • How long are the wait times for appointments? How long does it take to get an appointment?
  • What are the office hours and does the doctor allow for walk-ins? Are there evening or weekend hours?
  • What is the doctor's specialty?


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