Looking for a new Doctor?
5 Things to Consider When Searching for a New Primary Care Physician. (PCP)
1. Ask Around
If you know a doctor, nurse, pharmacist or dentist, ask for the names of doctors or practices in your area whom they like and trust. That can be more insightful than recommendations from friends or family. You should also consider what kind of doctor you want. Maybe you need someone who can care for your whole family or someone who focuses on women or seniors?
2. Make sure your new doctor is “In-Network”
Often times your insurance is an HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) and uses a network of doctors to provide care. Some insurance plans do not cover visits to doctors outside of this HMO network so use your insurance carrier’s physician directory. (They will provide a printed copy if you call and request it.) Or search on their website for doctors in their HMO network. If you are working with an insurance agent or broker they can also help you determine which doctors are in network and even help you change to a more flexible plan so you can see the doctor you choose.
Here are the top insurance plans in Maine and their search sites for in-network doctors. (Because doctors often add or drop plans, call the office to verify that the doctor still accepts your insurance.)
On-Marketplace Plans (Obamacare)
Off Marketplace Plans (Private Health Insurance)
Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C)
3. Location Location Location!
I chose my doctor based on convenience. My doctor’s office is 6 miles from my home so it’s easy to fit it into my schedule either in the morning on my way to an appointment or in the afternoon on the way back. Sort your list of in-network doctors by location and check out which one’s are nearby. Also look at their office hours – what days and times can the doctor see you?
4. Meet the Doctor
Most doctors will offer a 15 min consultation visit (generally at no charge) so you can get a feel for whether you’ve selected the right doctor. Discuss any current medications you are taking and your medical history to be sure you are on the same page when it comes to managing your health. Also ask about office policies. Ask how long it takes to make an appointment for a routine visit (it should be less than a week), whether they offer same-day appointments, and how long patients are kept in the waiting room. Once you’re a patient, if the reality doesn’t meet your expectations, consider shopping around. That’s important not only to save you time but also for your health. In practices that waste patients’ time, research shows that “patients are less likely to follow up on recommendations to prevent or manage chronic conditions,” said L. Gordon Moore, M.D., chief medical officer at Treo Solutions, a data analytics firm.1
NOTE: While you are making the initial phone call to meet your potential new doctor and when you arrive at the office notice how they treat you and other patients in the office. They are the people who will schedule your appointments, check you in and out, give the doctor your messages, and address insurance concerns. Look for a staff that’s friendly, efficient, and respectful.
5. Remember to Factor in Technology
Many doctors now use email or an online portal to communicate with patients, which may be another important thing to ask. Electronic health records let your doctor track your medical history, share info with specialists, and monitor all of your drugs. A patient portal is a secured website that gives you 24-hour access to your health information, allowing you to book and track doctor appointments, get lab results, request prescription refills, and e-mail questions to your doctor. The government requires that health information be protected with passwords, encryption, and other technical safeguards. Still, it’s a good idea to ask how your information will be safeguarded.
Many people looking for insurance choose to meet with someone who can help them find which plan is best for them. Choosing between the many different types of insurance plans is a difficult decision. What is the best plan for you may not be the best plan for your partner or spouse.
If you would like me to come to your home and meet with you one-on-one please Contact Me. My phone number is (207) 370-0143 or call me toll free at (866) 976-9038. I am available anytime to chat. There is no obligation to you and no cost to meet with me.
1 Source: October 2014 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.