How to find a doctor? (Chicago recommendations accepted!)
January 12, 2011 2:26 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a general-care doctor, a gynecologist, and possibly a psychologist/psychiatrist in Chicago. Do you have any recommendations? Is there a website for this? A secret doctor directory? How does one go about finding good healthcare?

I am a few years out of college, and the last doctor I saw (aside from visits to walk in clinics and my gynecologist in my hometown) was my pediatrician. I have very good insurance through my parents, for now at least (Blue Cross / Blue Shield).

I feel sort of clueless. I don't even know if I need a "Family Practice" doctor or an "Internist" or if having a gynecologist is enough?


Here's the ranty part that you don't have to read:

I'm finding the process of finding a doctor that I like a little frustrating. I don't want to go to the walk in clinic forever, but I've been here for over five years now and am somehow still unsure of how to even begin this search (that is, if I don't want to just settle for whoever's closest to me and takes my insurance). I've asked friends, but the majority of them either rely on the walk-in clinic too or still see a doctor wherever their parents live.

Perhaps this is part of my problem: I trusted the dentist, pediatrician, gynecologist, etc. that I saw while I was growing up. My mother (a doctor herself) had known most of them since she moved to my hometown, years before I was born. Now I'm out on my own in the big city and whatnot, and it feels weird to just trust my well-being to someone I know nothing about and who knows nothing about me. The whole process feels too much like a game of chance, and I don't like it!


In order of idealisticness, I am looking for people who are:

1: Somewhat accessible by phone/email in urgent situations (my pediatrician had an early morning phone hour, for example, and could be called for urgent-care advice during the day if necessary)

2: Not in the pockets of Big Pharma (this question is partly inspired by this recent MeFi post) or overtly trying to sell some procedure or other (it always icked me out that my hometown gynecologist had laser hair removal brochures all over her office - though she was great herself, so not the end of the world).

3: Someone who's, you know, someone you can talk to normally and feels like a genuine, intelligent person. And doesn't talk down to you. And explains things.

I think I'm homesick for my pediatrician. He was so great.

I also am curious about the etiquette of finding someone to take care of your physical health issues. My impression is that it's acceptable to shop around for psychologists - have a trial appointment, ask a bunch of questions about their methodology and so on. Is it okay to do this with doctors? Can I ask to talk to the doctor to get a feel for her before signing up as a patient in her practice?

Finally - from what I've found in poking around myself, there isn't a website specifically for finding general-practice - not specialist - doctors (aside from sparse reviews on Yelp, maybe, or the sites insurance companies give you to search the doctors they work with). Why is this? Do most people just not bother with preventative care? I almost feel like I'd be better off going through the DOCTORS-GENERAL section of a paper phone book than trying to find a good doctor on the internet. (But we always throw out the darned phone book when it comes!)

I can be contacted by email at askmefianonymousXgmailXdotXcom
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Here's how I find doctors I like:

(1) Use insurance database to find doctors in your area that take your insurance.

(2) Check out their website (if they have one). Do they seem like they are competent at their jobs? Are they part of a larger medical practice or a solo practice? (There are plusses and minuses to each of these - I prefer doctors who are part of a larger medical group because they can provide better emergency advice).

(3) Schedule an appointment to "establish as a patient" - basically you are just meeting with the doctor and perhaps getting your yearly physical or exam if it an eye doctor, dentist, or gynecologist.

(4a) Do you like the doctor? Great, you have found a doctor!

(4b) If you don't like the doctor, then repeat this next year.

As for GP vs. PCP vs. Internist - the big secret is that they are mostly all the same. I started going to an Internist recently and I am pretty happy with the way he has an integrated practice, but that's probably the influence of his practice more than which specialty he picked.

ALSO, some gynecologists will also do yearly physicals and generally act as a Primary Care Physician! So when you schedule your appointment, just ask.

There's no harm in picking a shitty doctor at first and then switching to a different one, besides some wasted time I suppose.
posted by muddgirl at 2:33 PM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well for specific referrals.

The Women's Practice have really, really good gyn. I had to meet with all of them during my pregnancy. Walz-Buscher is mine (and awesome/caring/not pushy) and then I would second Norling.

For GP I would say Lake Shore Medical, specifically P. Szyperski. Again, not pushy, great listener, looks for options, and they have specialities within the practice if you need someone like that eventually.

Psych. depends are you looking for med managment or talk therapy? Urban Balance has a decent bunch of psychologists (more clinical social workers) that are fair and insurance friendly. Or you can go with The Family Institute which has everyone from high-end charging professionals with loads of experience or students that are more price-friendly.

All take BCBS.

I found the first two through NW Memorials' website. I usually look who is head of the department or high up in the line of a professor. I feel that if they are the head or are teaching let's hope they know what they're doing .I have been satisfied with both the GP and GYN (GYN I've been with for over 10 years; GP 6 years and even my DH goes and he hates docs). The psych--little more work and that truly is trial and error.

Just know that with anyone, you're paying them--they work for you. If you don't like them, switch. It's your right. Listening, communication, compassion, not pushy on invasive techcniques--that's what I look for.

Good luck. I also have referrals on really good ENTs, some ped specialists (surgeons and pulmonologists) and infertility clinics if you need more.
posted by stormpooper at 2:41 PM on January 12, 2011

I really like my GP and my gynecologist, and both of them took several years of my living in Chicago to find. (For the gyn I just went to a new one every time the opportunity came up until I found one I liked, and for the GP same thing until I got a good recommendation from a friend.)

My gynecologist is Gloria Elam working out of the UIC hospitals. I think she's recently switched her practice to mostly OB, so I don't know if she's taking on any new patients. Definitely worth a try. She's the only gynecologist I've ever had who doesn't get chatty when she's all up in my cooz. I like that.

My GP is Bruce Huck. He's technically with Rush University but is located in the Loop, which is convenient. Not only is he adorable and dorky (look at the picture!), but he's also everything you want in a doctor. He listens well, asks lots of questions, and is patient and thorough. He also gave me (in pen, on the back of his office card) his direct phone number so I could get him some info I had forgotten to bring with me to an appointment as easily as possible. I've been told that Dr. Pohlman, the other Rush guy at the same location, is also very good (though I haven't seen him personally).

Good luck!
posted by phunniemee at 2:43 PM on January 12, 2011

Missed this originally:
Can I ask to talk to the doctor to get a feel for her before signing up as a patient in her practice?
It doesn't hurt to try, beyond perhaps a co-pay. In my experience, some doctors won't even charge that.
posted by muddgirl at 2:43 PM on January 12, 2011

I like the Northwestern Medical Physicians Group. You buy in to the group, so you can have your primary care doctor but if you need a same day appointment (or if you want to change your doctor) this is very easy to do. Also it's in a huge hospital in the loop so if you need a specialist or referral that is easy.

I asked my doc about a psychologist referral and he said it's a lot of trial and error to find a good one.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 2:47 PM on January 12, 2011

No specific recommendations, but ZocDoc is a directory of doctors in major US cities. I booked a dentist in NYC through them.
posted by dfriedman at 2:55 PM on January 12, 2011

I found my last doctor off of Angie's List and have been very happy with her. I thought the reviews she had there were dead on.

You might try buying a subscription it was worth it for me.
posted by Saminal at 2:59 PM on January 12, 2011

"1: Somewhat accessible by phone/email in urgent situations (my pediatrician had an early morning phone hour, for example, and could be called for urgent-care advice during the day if necessary)"

I am downstate, so can't give you a Chicago rec, but around here all the practices who are affiliated with one of the hospitals (which is a lot of them!) use that hospital's 24-hour nurse line. So I can call my doctor's number any time after hours, even at 2 a.m., and a real live triage nurse picks up, with access to all my medical records on the computer. I tell her what's wrong, and she either tells me to go to the ER RIGHT NOW, helps me set up an appointment with my doctor's practice for the morning, tells me to go to urgent care and where the nearest open one is, or gives me recommendations for home care. OR she beeps whoever's on call from my doctor's office and my doctor calls me back. It's a FANTASTIC system.

(They also have a pediatric nurse line, which is a GODSEND for new parents! You feel so much less-bad calling the official triage nurse at 2 a.m. and letting HER wake up your pediatrician if necessary!)

Anyway, I would look for something like this, because it is like my favorite doctor service EVER.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:09 PM on January 12, 2011

Find a physician's group that has at least two out of the three types of doctors you need. Billing is simplified and the docs cover each other when they are off. Maybe even check out the hospital nearby and just sniff around. Ask the cafeteria ladies or the person running the front desk.

The things at my group (far south side, memail me for name) that make it a great deal for me is that besides having a great group of physicians, they have a number of services onsite that you normally have to go into a hospital for. Laboratory, x-ray machines, pharmacy, orthopedics. If you need a consult, you can often wander over to the other doctor and they can see you within the hour. If you are in Deep Trouble, the hospital is across the street. One stop shopping.

(The coolest thing was that, for a time, my adult general

I would stay FAR, FAR away from single practitioners, or these docs that are at different offices every day of the week. It makes it really, really hard to get good care. If your doc is only at your location one or two days a week, it drastically limits your options. If you have a question, you have to track them across the city.

One of my doctors moved to UIC from a private group, and I like (some of) what goes on. At least in the area I am there for, it runs as its own quasi-separate clinic. Same doctor, same person to call for appts, same person to talk to for billing issues.
posted by gjc at 4:40 PM on January 12, 2011

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