Cancer Tips

5 tips for choosing a new doctor

I regularly brag about my amazing health care team. I’m so lucky to have a group of doctors committed to helping me stay healthy. Liking and trusting your doctors are critical to ensuring that you get the best care. Keep reading for 5 tips for choosing a new doctor.

As a three-time cancer survivor, I have a lot of doctors on my team. Like a LOT. A medical oncologist, primary care physician, endocrinologist, cardiologist, melanoma specialist, gynecologist, orthopedic oncology surgeon…..I could go on a bit more! Yikes! So it’s really important that I trust and respect these doctors. Because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be their patient! I feel comfortable with all of them to have open conversations about health concerns, side effects and anything else bugging me.

I’ve been super fortunate to find a great group of healthcare providers who meet all of my criteria – expertise, listening, understanding my concerns, working with me AND working with my other doctors, compassion and more.

5 tips for choosing a new doctor:

1. Ask for recommendations.

Talk to family and friends about doctors who they would recommend as a highly skilled physician. Ask what they like about the doctor (and don’t like). Of course, keep in mind that everyone has a different need or opinion so your friend’s favorite doctor may not be right for you.

2. Know your criteria.

What are the qualities that you’re looking for? I, of course, look for highly skilled in their field. Who doesn’t want the best? But I also look beyond that. I want the whole package! Besides being an expert in their field, my top criteria include someone who will listen to concerns, questions and input, express compassion, answer my questions, experience with my health issue, and work with my other doctors. I often come to my appointments with a notebook full of questions regarding my health concerns and/or current health status (my current doctors actually ask where my notebook is if I don’t have it out, ha!). When meeting with a new doctor, consider these questions (click here for other ideas):

  • Do you feel at ease with the doctor?
  • Do you feel comfortable trusting this doctor with your care?
  • Did the doctor show an interest in getting to know you and understand your health concerns, goals, interests, etc.?
  • Did you get a chance to ask questions? Were they willing to answer your questions?
  • Did they explain things in a way you understood?
  • How do they communicate with other healthcare providers caring for you? Do they use an electronic medical record system to easily share test results and more?
3. Check your coverage.

Making sure that your doctor takes your health insurance is very important to managing costs. Call the office to see what insurance they take but also check directly with your insurance plan. Seeing a provider ‘in network’ saves a lot of money. I also find it very convenient and better communication between my providers by staying within one health system. This lets all of my providers be able to access my medical records for easy review when I see a specialist, have a test and more. However, this is a personal preference. If you don’t have health insurance, call the office to see if they take cash/payment plans.

4. Ask about access.

You want your doctor available when you need care. It’s important to learn in advance about office hours, after hour availability, how long does it generally take to get in to see the doctor. Is this a group practice or single physician? At this point in time, it’s important to me that my doctors are up-to-date on technology. I like to use the patient portal for questions, review my medical record and confirm upcoming appointments. Telehealth appointments are also options that I now look for.

5. Study the staff.

You’ll be interacting with the practice staff quite a bit. So being comfortable in the office overall is important. These are the people who will schedule appointments, handle insurance and billing, manage prescription refills and most likely answer a lot of questions as the go-between the doctor and you. You want them to be helpful, courteous, capable. I have left a practice, despite loving a doctor, because I simply couldn’t handle the rude, unorganized front desk staff. It was a bummer but my sanity and peace of mind are more important. And thankfully I found a new doctor with an amazing staff!

Get the care YOU need!

These are just 5 tips for choosing a new doctor – the most important thing is that you feel comfortable with ALL of your doctors so you get care when you need it, including preventive screenings [Read about 5 cancer screenings not to miss].

What do you look for when choosing a new doctor?

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