I wish I could just go to the minute clinic....
October 10, 2011 11:11 AM   Subscribe

What kind of doctor can I go to instead of an internist or a GP? I can't find either in the DC area that accepts my insurance, is taking new patients, and that doesn't have at least a 3 or 4 month wait, so I'm trying to determine what specialist would be appropriate to try and get into see.

I'm having some stomach/digestive issues (some bleeding, minor but persistant stomach cramps and I might be anemic) that could potentially be serious, but are probably explained away by far more benign causes. Nonetheless I feel I should go see a doctor. I'm in Washington, DC and I have good insurance, nonetheless I cannot find a single doctor that takes my insurance and that is still accepting new patients (I'm sorry if you can't see me until the new year you aren't really taking new patients). What other kinds of doctors other than a GP or an internist should I expand my search too. I'm just about to give up, I've been calling doctors all day long and am just at the end of my rope. Would a gastroentorologist be appropriate? I feel stupid going for what is probably just slightly worse hemmoroids, but since I now think I'm mildly anemic (I have a history and I was exhausted all the time until I started taking iron and then I felt better almost overnight) I feel like I need to get it checked out.

And if you know any good doctors in the DC area that are taking new patients I'm open to suggestions. I may have to suck it up and pay out of pocket for someone out of network, which seems completely ludicrious given there is supposedly a long, long list of doctors in my area taking my health insurance.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You should definitely see a gastroenterologist.
posted by litnerd at 11:17 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your symptoms could be something simple but they could also be really serious. As long as your insurance doesn't require pre-approvals then I think going straight to a Gastroenterologist would be a really good idea.

Just FYI: My everyday medical professional is a Physician's Assistant. She's great and I can get in to see her easily. A Nurse Practitioner might also be someone for you to look into. I've seen all kinds of doctors and the quality of care has never been worse just because somebody isn't a "real MD". In fact I've found PAs and NPs seem to be less busy and more likely to remember me personally.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:31 AM on October 10, 2011

I don't know how to send you a private message, because you are anonymous, but I invite you to PM me if you want ...

I work for a Community Health Center in Washington DC that has a brand-new, super-fly primary health care clinic on Georgia Avenue near the Petworth Metro station, and another smaller-but-just-renovated-top-to-bottom clinic in Adams Morgan near the Harris Teeter. We take most all insurance (not sure what yours is so I can't swear that we take *that* one) including public insurance.

I don't know what our exact wait time is for a new appointment (my job isn't in the clinic itself) but I am quite sure that we can see you before the end of the year.

The number to call for an appointment is 202-483-8196, and also I linked above to our web site. Also please do PM me if you want more info or have questions about us. Or email me at mccxxiii at gmail if you would rather be more private.

We want to give you healthcare!!
posted by mccxxiii at 11:33 AM on October 10, 2011

Check the websites of the hospitals/medical centers in your area. Many of them have a "Find A Physician" section where you can screen a large base of physicians at once or maybe a phone number to call and have an actual human help you find an appropriate physician for you that is taking new patients. Some insurance companies offer this service too, so I'd check the website of your insurance carrier or perhaps the fine print on the back of your insurance card.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 11:33 AM on October 10, 2011

Are the internists you are calling aware that you are having actual issues? Usually when I tell them I'm having issues ("hi, I am looking for a new doctor, and I know there is a long wait for new patient physicals, but I am having X issue") they will see me earlier (at least in the case where I am new to the area).

Otherwise, gastro doctor sounds appropriate here.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:55 AM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

It is true that it is really hard to find a GP in DC. It took me 3 months of calling almost daily.

My doctor friend suggested that I go in to GW's MFA for a pap smear and/or pregnancy test - and I did that successfully - and about 3 weeks later I got into a GP at GW because I was already in the system. I don't love my GP (he's a resident), but at least it was a start.

Other suggestions - consider Alexandria and Arlington and keep calling. Seriously.
posted by k8t at 12:06 PM on October 10, 2011

If your insurance is a large company like BC/BS or Aetna you should be able to go to a doctor in MD or VA as well.
posted by COD at 12:22 PM on October 10, 2011

Whatever type of physician you end up looking for, have you tried ZocDoc? I've had pretty good luck with them (in DC) so far.
posted by EvaDestruction at 12:51 PM on October 10, 2011

If the problem gets worse before you can get into a doctor's office, go to an emergency room for treatment. Don't let your problem get out of hand waiting for an appointment. I am not suggesting you should go to use the ER as a source to just to get seen, but if you become further concerned about your health, it is the thing to do.

Once in the ER, several things can happen: proper testing can be done to get some hard facts; you will learn the seriousness of your issue (which can put you mind at rest), and can then know whether or not you can wait until the first of the year to see someone, and what kind of physician would be best to see to treat your problem. ER personnel (the docs, PAs and RNs) can be excellent sources of information about who is a good bet to be a good doc in any particular specialty. Furthermore, if there if it is found that you have a problem that needs immediate attention, the doc who sees you can likely get you an immediate appointment with the appropriate physician.

In addition, you health insurance will likely pay the biggest portion of your bill. You will probably have to pay only your ER deductible.

BTW, this issue is one reason to ALWAYS maintain an ongoing relationship with a GP. Your personal physician can get you in to see a specialist the same day just by making a phone call. If you are young and in reasonably good health you need only see your GP every 6 months to a year (his/her call, of course) to maintain that good relationship. With good health insurance, that's a pittance to have much faster access to all the medical attention you need as soon as you need it. That relationship also makes it very likely that you won't have to wait more than a week at most to see your doctor. If you have to wait more than a week for your established doctor, find another; they have too many patients to my thinking. When interviewing for a GP, a good question to ask is what the typical waiting time is for an appointment for an established patient. Always remember, you are hiring a physician for a service; you pay for his/her time. If you aren't satisfied, go elsewhere.
posted by konig at 1:02 PM on October 10, 2011

"GP" isn't really a category. The new name these days is "primary care". Insurers typically will accept doctors in these specialties as primary care providers (PCPs): internal medicine, family practice, and ob/gyn. Even though your problem today isn't likely an ob/gyn issue, you'd still be seeing an MD whose job includes primary care include (importantly) the PCP role of gatekeeping referrals to specialists. So s/he should be able to give you a gastroenterology referral that your insurer would considered covered care.

Urgent Care is also often covered by insurance at reasonable rates. It's meant for stuff like this; drop-in care for non-life-threatening issues. It's not emergency room, and not billed at those exorbitant rates.

This is a good question for your insurer's customer service line, by the way. Practices are supposed to notify them they open/close to patients with X coverage. They're supposed to be able to tell you who's available.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:12 PM on October 10, 2011

Yeah, if you're female an ob/gyn can be your primary care provider.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:53 PM on October 10, 2011

You need a gastroenterologist. Don't downplay your symptoms; this is exactly why specialists exist, and you won't be wasting anyone's time.

While this isn't specific to your insurance plan, the GI locator function on this site will find you a gastroenterologist by location.

Pretty soon after searching, you'll notice that some share phone numbers. This is good! It means you've found a practice. Call that practice, say you're a new patient, you're having issues, and is there *anyone* who can see you in xyz timeframe. Many, many medical practices have newer associates who aren't listed in such finder tools or even in the phone book. And the newer ones without a longstanding list of loyal patients are just the ones most likely to have available appointments. And if you hit a roadblock, don't be afraid to ask the receptionist at the group if there are other GI groups in town that she knows where you might have better luck. Good luck!
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:42 PM on October 10, 2011

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