Shopping for a doctor can be stressful. Whether you’re moving to a new town and need to establish a network of providers or are new parents striving to find the best pediatrician for your precious little one, finding a qualified doctor can be one of the most important tasks you endeavor. In fact, a recent study by the Cleveland Clinic found that only 36 percent of patients age 18-34 report having a good relationship with their doctor, while 85 percent of all patients said that their doctor does something that irritates them.
So how can you find a doctor that fits well with your family’s needs? What are the things you should consider when selecting a provider? Here are five things to consider when selecting a healthcare provider:
1. Check Your Insurance
The number one mistake people make when searching for a healthcare provider is forgetting to check with their insurance provider on coverage. Specifically, it is important to understand the difference between in-network and out-of-network coverage and what it means for your out-of-pocket expense. Simply stated, in-network providers have a negotiated rate with your insurance company, allowing your insurance company to charge you less out-of-pocket fees, while an out-of-network provider, while often covered by your insurance, doesn’t have the same negated rates, which means you pay a larger portion of the bill.
Here’s an example. My husband and I recently switched insurance plans and were looking for a new vision provider. We were new to our town, and wanted to find a doctor near our home. I went to a doctor that I thought was in-network, but turned out to be out-of-network. While my exam was partially covered by insurance, what should have been a free wellness exam ended up costing me a whopping $125 because it was out-of-network. The same exam at an in-network provider was free for my husband the following month.
2. Identify a Preferred Hospital Network
While this specifically is important for women of childbearing age, finding a provider that works with your preferred hospital network is important for multiple reasons. First, you want to make sure your doctor is affiliated with the best local medicine. Living in the Chicagoland area, my husband and I travel 45 minutes to our pediatricians office to ensure our doctors are affiliated with the area’s leading Chicago children’s hospital. Our pediatricians serve on the board of Ann & Robert H. Lurie’s Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and are on the cutting edge of leading technology and diagnostics.
Second, it’s important to know that your medical records are accessible by your doctors should you need to visit a hospital. When it came time for me to find an obstetrician, I researched hospitals with a minimum level II NICU to ensure that my child would be born in a hospital with the best possible care, should a problem arise. I then searched for local doctors affiliated with my chosen hospital.
3. Determine What Matters Most
Interested in unconventional medicine? Find a doctor who values alternative care treatments. Looking for cutting edge diagnostic technology? Consider an office that supports clinical trials and serves as a training hospital/facility for medical students. Tired of dragging your family to multiple offices for different age groups? Identify a family doctor that treats birth through adult. It’s always smart to create a list of your must-have and nice-to-have attributes to ensure you’re getting everything you expect from your provider.
4. Check References
I recently learned from a bad dentist experience that one of the most important parts of a doctor search is checking references. And I don’t just mean online. While a quick Google search can undoubtedly provide several valid reviews of the provider in question, nothing provides more valid information than a first-person testimony.
New in town and not sure where to search for a referral? Consider local vendors, grocery store clerks, neighbors or even other doctors. I received some of my best referrals from my chiropractor, friends at church and neighbors. Not only can these sources provide a great recommendation, but they also often have usefully information on who NOT to see.
5. Trust Your Instinct
Finding a healthcare provider is a very personal choice. It’s important that your provider makes you feel comfortable, and that she accurately addresses your questions and concerns. Don’t be afraid to challenge your doctor, asking her questions about your healthcare plan of treatment. If you find that your doctor feels threatened by your questions, it’s time to find a new doctor. At the end of the day, you need to feel comfortable with the level of care you receive.