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Choosing a Doctor

Choosing a Doctor

Patient Comments

Choosing a doctor can be a difficult and worrisome task, even under the best of circumstances. The doctor-patient relationship involves something that we value greatly, our health. This relationship has always been an important one, involving trust, openness, and compassion and therefore remains one of the most difficult, important decisions we make.

A recent study indicates that more than one in eight people changed their primary doctor last year. Although this may seem an unusual or alarming statistic, it largely reflects the times and current state of health care in the United States.

People may seek a new doctor for the following reasons:

  • The doctor retired or is moving or unavailable
  • Quality of care
  • The quality and service of the office staff
  • Convenience
  • Health plan changes by the doctor or a change in insurance by the patient
  • Change of location

Whether you are choosing a doctor for the first time or changing doctors, this process can be a daunting task. You must undertake the decision with care and planning so that the outcome is satisfactory.

Start Early

The best time to choose a doctor is when you don't need one. Don't wait until you or a loved one is faced with an illness or emergency to begin looking for a doctor. This only adds stress to the decision-making process and increases the chances of making a choice you are unhappy with.

Many people often seek advice from family, friends, or coworkers about the right choice for a doctor. These are certainly good places to start and are often the most reliable and readily available sources. A number of other sources can further broaden your search.

  • County, state, or national medical societies: Many may have phone referral or information centers, and many have Internet information sites. One needs to remember that some of them will recommend any doctor who is a member of the society and each society has different qualifications for membership.
  • Web-based searches for board certified doctors are available at the American Board of Medical Specialties or by the Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists.
  • Various referral agencies can help. It is important to evaluate the role of the referral agency. Are they charging the doctor a fee to be recommended ? Are they a neutral rating agency/web site?
  • Many community hospitals have "Find-a-Doctor" referral centers. These doctors usually have privileges to practice at the referring hospitals.
  • Your insurance plan will have a list of participating doctors in your area.
  • When seeking a specialist, the best referral source is your primary care physician.
Last Reviewed 11/21/2017

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Choosing a Doctor - Patient Experience

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