Whenever you read health advice online or hear about a new medication on TV, you undoubtedly encounter the words “talk to your doctor.” But, what if you don’t have a doctor to talk to?
It isn’t uncommon for young adults to move away from home and lose access to their family’s primary care provider. Some young adults opt to rotate their primary care doctors — but doing so reduces the quality of your care because it means that no provider gets a deep understanding of your health history, personality and needs. So, if you are in a new city with a new health insurance plan and need a new primary care doctor, here’s a guide to finding the perfect one for you.
Before you start looking for your perfect health care provider, you need to think about what “perfect” means to you. You are a unique patient with a unique personality, unique medical history and unique medical needs in the present and future, so not every doctor is going to be compatible with you. You should make a list of credentials and qualities you expect from your provider to ensure you have adequate care.
Some questions you might ask to determine your needs include:
- Does your doctor need an MD, or will a DO or NP suffice?
- Do you care where your doctor earned their medical credentials?
- Does your doctor need special experience in a particular kind of medicine?
- How do you prefer to hear health information?
- How do you want to be able to reach your doctor?
It is important to remember that your one, true, “perfect” doctor might not exist — or they might not operate within your insurance network. You should choose your primary care provider based on the qualities that matter most to you, which means having a ranking of your priorities to follow during your search.
Word of mouth remains the best strategy for finding a doctor who offers sound health advice and boasts an excellent bedside manner. If you have friends and family in the area, you might talk to them about the doctors they use; likely, many of them are in a situation like yours, but some might have providers they absolutely love. An even better idea is to talk to your coworkers in the area since they are likely to have the same insurance coverage as you.
If you do want to take anyone’s recommendation, you might ask your friend or colleague for permission, first. Though the provider is legally prohibited from sharing health information of patients, some people don’t like the idea of visiting the same doctor as someone they know.
Whether or not your loved ones provide any leads, you need to be certain that your primary care doctor accepts your insurance. You can call their office and ask about insurance coverage, but a faster method is to visit your insurance provider’s website and look into their network yourself. Your insurer should also have a provider search tool to help you find covered primary care doctors to sift through, if you haven’t gotten any other leads from other sources.
Once you have a healthy list of in-network providers you believe meet your needs, you should interview them. Though doctors are busy, most are willing to meet with potential patients to discuss the opportunity to form lasting health relationships. You can set up interview appointments, which shouldn’t cost anything, simply by calling provider offices and asking. Some providers will prefer to conduct interviews over the phone, which gives them the opportunity to squeeze these shorter appointments in between patient exams. Other providers will use a service like Everyday Doctor, which is great if you expect your provider to have telehealth solutions available.
How you interview doctors is up to you. You might have a list of questions to run through, or you might prefer a more conversational meeting. As long as you gain a better understanding of their credentials, their behaviors, their conversation and education styles and other qualifications that matter to you, the interview will be a success.
If a provider is perfect on paper but gives you a bad feeling deep in your gut, you shouldn’t choose that provider to be your primary care doctor. Your instincts matter; if you don’t get a good vibe from someone, you are less likely to trust their medical advice, which puts your health at risk. You need a doctor you respect, but you also need a doctor you like.
The sooner you develop a relationship with a primary care provider, the sooner you can get on the right path to health. These tips should help you find the right doctor for you.