It’s important to know how to choose a doctor that’s right for you. In fact, choosing a doctor is one of the most important decisions you’ll make about your health. Plus, when you use a doctor within your plan’s network, you get the most out of your plan and save more money. Finding the right doctor takes a little bit of homework. Let’s get started.
In Network or Out-of-Network?
If you want to get the most out of your coverage for the least out-of-pocket cost, you should find a doctor in your plan’s network. Insurance companies negotiate better rates with doctors, hospitals and healthcare providers within their network, so staying in-network saves you money. Selecting a doctor that’s outside your plan’s network will end up costing you more because you’re likely to get less coverage and benefits and pay more out of your pocket for them. Choosing an in-network physician is also easier because his or her staff will handle the insurance paperwork for you, which is called processing a claim.
Primary Care or Specialist?
Do you need a primary care physician that you’ll want to see for routine issues and examinations? Or, do you need a specialist that focuses on one specific area or issue? If you’re looking for a specialist, make sure he or she is board-certified in the field. Board certification means that the specialist has taken a training program and passed required examinations in that field. Primary care physicians may be certified as well, but their certification is likely to be more general, such as Family Medicine or Internal Medicine.
What’s Their Reputation?
Do you know anybody who has seen this doctor? Can the doctor provide references? The doctor’s reputation ranks high among most patients as a deciding factor. So, if possible, talk to other people who have seen the doctor you are considering. People who select a doctor based on a referral or recommendation from a family member, friend or fellow patient are usually happy with their decision.
Questions for Your First Appointment
Once you find a doctor in your network, it’s evaluation time. The best way to do this is by asking questions during your first appointment. You can go for a specific issue or just schedule an “interview.” Here are some questions you’ll want to ask.
- Can you tell me about your education and medical training?
- How would you describe your approach to practicing medicine?
- How experienced is your staff?
- What hospital do you use if I would need treatment there?
- Do you do tests like X-rays and lab work here, or will I have to go to a separate facility?
- Will I be able to get in touch with you directly in an emergency?
You may have other questions depending on your health and the doctor’s specialty. Also, be sure to confirm your health insurance coverage with the doctor’s staff.
Don’t be shy during your first session. Ask questions and talk about your concerns. Be aware of how the doctor responds. Their willingness to make the time to address your concerns and answer your questions will be clues that tell you if you’ve found the right doctor.
The Value of a Strong Doctor-Patient Relationship
Education, experience and access are important when selecting a doctor. However, so is your rapport. You want to be able to communicate honestly and openly. Feeling comfortable when talking to your doctor is important, especially if you have to address a sensitive health issue.
If you want to find a doctor for your child, the same rules apply. Because you’re making healthcare decisions for your child, you have to put trust in that’s child’s physician. Building trust will take time, but asking questions and having an honest discussion about what’s best for your child is the first step.