Switching doctors doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore. These tips can help you evaluate your options to make an informed decision about choosing a doctor that’s best for you.
- A little research improves your success rate
- Communication skills are vital
- Take a holistic approach that considers your emotional, social and physical needs
[3 MIN READ]
Are you looking for a new doctor?
Maybe your doctor is retiring from active practice. Maybe your health care plan is changing or you’re shifting to Medicare and your current physician is no longer covered. Maybe you’re just ready for a change.
Whatever the reason behind the switch, the first step is deciding what kind of primary care doctor is best equipped to meet your needs, manage your overall care and oversee referrals to specialists as needed. Look for one who’s board certified, which means he or she has additional training and certification in their field of expertise.
Your choices include:
- Family practitioners—provide care for a wide range of medical conditions without a focus on any specific area of medicine
- Internists—provide care for adults, specifically
- Geriatricians—specialize in care for older adults, typically 65+
Do your homework
A little research can help you make an informed decision:
- Talk to friends, family, and anyone whose opinion you respect to get recommendations
- Look online and read reviews
- Ask the health care professionals you know who they trust with their care
Once you’ve whittled down the list, it’s time to make your final pick and set up an appointment with your new physician. Here are 10 things to keep in mind as you make your decision.
Health insurance coverage
If you use an insurance provider or a government program like Medicare, your options may be limited to a specific list of names. Make sure your new doctor accepts your coverage before putting your name on their patient list. Learn about the ABCD's of Medicare coverage.
Good communication skills are one of the most important skills a doctor can have. Look for someone that looks you in the eye and talks to you not at you. Finding a doctor who listens to your concerns and treats you with the respect and dignity you deserve is well worth the search.
Location applies to more than buying a house. Are the new doctors’ offices located somewhere that’s easily accessible to you? Is there enough parking? Is lab work and imaging done on-site or do you need to go to a different location for tests and screenings? Is their office handicap accessible and easy to navigate while in the building?
Office staff and atmosphere
You should feel comfortable and relaxed during your appointment. You don’t want to feel rushed or made to feel as if your concerns are not valid. A welcoming office atmosphere and a friendly, courteous staff are vital for a positive experience and outcome.
What happens if you need care outside of office hours? Who sees you if your doctor is not available? What if you’re hospitalized? How long does it take to get an appointment? Can you call the office with health questions? Are they able to advise you on home health care options? The answers can help guide your choice.
Ask your potential provider about their privacy policies. Although all doctor’s offices are required to comply with HIPPA regulations that respect your right to privacy, you also want to make sure that your doctor will honor your preferences. Will they share information with your family or loved ones if you do or do not want them to? Can a family member or close friend accompany you to your appointments?
Health system access
A doctor who’s connected to a multi-faceted health system has access to the resources, specialists, programs and services that make up the comprehensive care you need. Check to see what other specialties are in their network, for example, cardiologists, dietitians, physical therapists or others that you may need if you have an injury or are managing an ongoing health condition.
Age-appropriate care and testing
Health care for seniors requires different expertise than treating children or younger adults. You want a doctor who specializes in managing the unique health challenges of older adults like:
- Multiple medical conditions
- Decline in physical function
- Diseases like dementia, incontinence or osteoporosis
Every aspect of your care—from tests, medications, procedures and more—should be focused on providing evidence-based care that takes your age into account.
Geriatric specialists understand the multiple medications many seniors are taking. They monitor and adjust the prescriptions you take regularly to help you manage your conditions and limit your use of unneeded medication. They also watch for potential side effects or harmful drug interactions.
Health care isn’t just testing and procedures. The best doctors look beyond your basic physical needs and examine how your social, emotional and physical health is intertwined to provide comprehensive, holistic care that addresses your needs. It’s also important to know what kinds of treatments your doctor may recommend and if they align with your plans and values. For example, will your doctor recommend alternative medicine or counseling?
Find a doctor
When you’re searching for someone to help you navigate your health journey in all its stages, our team of geriatric specialists could be the answer. Find a doctor that understands the special needs of older adults in our provider directory. Or, you can search for a primary care doctor in your area.
Share your tips for finding a doctor and getting the health care you need with #aging readers @psjh.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.
About the AuthorMore Content by Providence Seniors Health Team