People either choose to change doctors or are forced to change doctors for a variety of reasons, such as:
- Unique health care requirements
- Changes to their health insurance plan or insurance company
- They don’t feel comfortable with a certain physician or office staff
- Lifestyle changes make it easier to switch to a family practitioner
Regardless of why you’re searching for a new doctor, it’s vital to find a healthcare team with whom you feel comfortable, who can meet your unique lifestyle and healthcare needs, and whose services are accessible and affordable for you and your family. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
How do I find a doctor?
Ask for referrals.
Whether you’re changing your home address or just your doctor’s office, the easiest place to start is by asking for referrals. Ask your friends and family who they visit and trust. If you’re moving to a new location where you aren’t familiar with the community yet, ask your current doctor if they have anyone they’d recommend. Referrals are particularly useful if your medical history and healthcare needs require you to frequently have specialty treatments or testing done, as your primary care physician might be able to point you towards a specialist who works closely with a recommended General Practice or Family Practice office to offer complete and convenient healthcare options.
Check with your insurance company.
Many insurance companies negotiate special pricing with particular healthcare companies, meaning that your out-of-pocket expenses will be lower at in-network facilities than those which are out of your insurance company’s approved network. Since all insurance companies negotiate differently, rates may vary between specialists and General Practice physicians, and you could even be charged different emergency room and hospital rates depending on whether or the hospital nearest you is considered in-network. It’s never too soon to start investigating which facilities are (and aren’t) covered under your health insurance plan.
Find doctors who specialize in the type of care you need.
The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) is a non-profit organization that determines the competencies that physicians must meet in order to earn their board certification in a specialty area. Specialties include Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Dermatology, Pediatrics, etc. You can check to see if a physician is board certified in your requested area on the ABMS website. Keep in mind, just because a physician isn’t board certified doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified to provide care, but the ABMS certification process signifies that a doctor has passed a rigorous testing and certification process in order to prove that they are among the best in their field.
How do I choose a primary care doctor?
Once you’ve found a few options, narrow down your selection by prioritizing the pros and cons of each.
- Is a bustling, convenient location or small-town-feel more important?
- Is it worth incurring higher bills to see a doctor outside of your network?
- Does your primary care physician need to be near a medical school, hospital, or a board-certified specialist to truly meet your health care needs?
Your lifestyle, insurance, health information, and personal comfort are all important factors to consider when choosing a new doctor, but if you don’t find the perfect match right away, you’ll have to decide which factors are the most important. Sometimes it might be worth driving out of your way to see a doctor you can both trust and afford. Or maybe it’s worth putting up with more traffic at a larger facility if your insurance will cover a particular specialist there. The choice is yours based on your wants, needs, and resources!
What if I like my doctor but they are no longer in-network?
If, like many others, you already have a doctor you love and changes to your health insurance have made it so you can no longer afford your current doctor, you may be able to keep your doctor and instead find new insurance. Why leave a doctor you trust if you don’t have to?