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Choosing a Doctor That's Right For You

Gail Carlson, MPH Ph.D. State Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension

Has anyone had to find a new doctor lately?

There might be many reasons why you need to find a new doctor. A change to a managed care plan can mean finding a new primary care doctor who is part of that plan's network. Your doctor may have moved or retired. Maybe you just can't communicate with your doctor. Doctors have different personalities and backgrounds. Only you can tell if you are comfortable with a doctor and will be able to work with her to take care of your health. Finding someone you trust and can talk too is a good health care consumer strategy. How do you find the doctor that is right for you?

  • Get a list - If you are in a managed care plan, you will receive a list of doctors who practice within that system. If you are on your own, narrow down your list by asking family and friends, checking with a local hospital or public health nurse, or contacting the nearest County Medical Association.
  • Check credentials - Find out what your managed care plan does to check out the doctor's credentials. Write the Board of Healing Arts, P.O. Box 4, Jefferson City, MO 65102 to find out if the doctor is licensed to practice in Missouri. By calling the American Board of Medical Specialists at 1 (866) 275-2267, you can find out if the doctor is certified in the speciality areas she has indicated.
  • Talk to the doctor's receptionist - Your impression of the receptionist and other staff is important. It often reflects the attitude of the doctors.
  • Check out the office - The facilities should be clean and pleasant. Patients should not be kept waiting for long periods of time. The staff, including the doctor, should be pleasant and professional. You should be greeted in a friendly and respectful manner.
  • Interview the doctor - Interviewing the doctor might be the only way to find out if this is someone you can work with. When interviewing the doctor you want to find out how she keeps up with the latest developments in her field, what her office hours are, what is the best time to call her if you have a question and what you should do for health care if she is not available. If after the interview, you feel uncomfortable or unsure, don't hesitate to interview someone else.
  • Check out your feelings - Someone can technically be a very good doctor, but if you are not comfortable with that person and don't think you can work with her, then she might not be the best doctor for you. If she doesn't explain things in terms you can understand, she might not be the right doctor for you. Or, if you don't trust her enough to ask questions, share personal information, and be assertive she might not be the right doctor for you either.

If you need to find a new doctor, don't wait until you have an emergency or a major health problem. Start looking now. Give yourself some time to do some checking. It is your health, it is alright to be choosy.



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Last Updated 05/05/2009