Finding a new doctor: A guide for older adults
Finding a new doctor: A guide for older adults
Follow these six steps to finding a new doctor.
Your kids want you to move close to them. Or your doctor has reached retirement age. Or maybe you've got a new health insurance plan. Whatever the reason, after all these years with the same family doctor, you might discover that you have to find a new physician.
It might seem overwhelming at first — especially if you've come to trust your doctor and he or she understands you and your health history. Follow these steps and give yourself time to search for a new doctor who's best for you.
Step 1: Make a list of what you expect from your new doctor
Think about what you like about your current doctor. Does he or she really seem to care when you talk about your concerns? Does your doctor explain things clearly in language you can understand? Is your doctor's office conveniently located? Chances are you'll want to have these same things with your new doctor.
Make a list of what you're looking for and use it to evaluate new doctors. You'll likely want a doctor who:
Other aspects might be important to you as well, including which hospital the doctor uses and whether or not the doctor works in a group practice with several other doctors.
Step 2: Decide which type of doctor you want
Deciding which type of doctor is best for you is another way you can narrow your choices. Types of doctors you might consider include:
General practitioners, family practitioners and general internists provide what's called primary care. That is, they treat diseases and conditions but also advise you on how to prevent health problems. While some specialists also provide primary care, many prefer not to practice general medicine.
If, for example, you know you have heart problems and you want to see a cardiologist, first find a doctor who can provide your primary care. He or she can then refer you to a specialist.
Depending on your health insurance plan, you may be required to find a primary care doctor first. Other plans might let you choose a specialist without first seeing a primary care doctor.
Step 3: Ask around for advice
Talk to friends and family about doctors they recommend. Perhaps your current doctor can even make some recommendations. Nurses in your doctor's office or at your local hospital might be able to offer recommendations, since they often work with several doctors. You might also consult:
You might also be interested in checking your new doctor's credentials online. Administrators in Medicine, the national organization of state medical and osteopathic board executive directors, lists state Web sites that give such information, though not all states list doctors' credentials online. Depending on the information available from your state, you might be able to find out if the doctor is currently licensed to practice medicine and whether or not any disciplinary action has been taken against the doctor.
Step 4: Call your selected doctors' offices
Once you've made your list of preferences and decided what type of doctor you'd like, call doctors' offices in your area and ask questions. You may want to ask about:
Ask any other questions that will help you narrow your choice of doctors. Responses to your questions might also give you an idea of how friendly or stressed out the office staff members are.
Step 5: Make an appointment to talk to the doctor
You might have gotten enough information over the phone to make your decision. Or you might want to make an appointment to interview the doctor to see how well you communicate with each other. Here you can ask more about the doctor's experience and about office policies. Keep in mind that the doctor might charge you for his or her time, and your health insurance may not pay for the appointment.
Step 6: Transfer your medical information
Once you've selected a new doctor, talk with your current doctor about getting your medical records in order. With your permission, your current doctor can send your files to your new doctor. You might also ask for copies of your medical records for your own reference. Your current doctor may also be willing to fill your new doctor in on your chronic health problems. But don't wait until the last minute. Give your current doctor enough time to prepare your files to ensure a smooth transition to your new doctor.
Finding a new doctor can seem overwhelming. But following a series of simple steps can make finding a new doctor much easier — and offer a greater level of satisfaction when you turn to your new doctor for medical advice in the future.
Last Updated: 08/24/2006
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