How do I find a family doctor?
September 5, 2004 9:44 PM   Subscribe

How do I find a family doctor?
posted by chiababe to Health & Fitness (6 answers total)
Do you have insurance? If so, the first step is to get a list of the doctors in your region whose services will be covered under your insurance plan.

Do you want to stick with a family practitioner specifically, or will any primary care practitoner be okay? For instance, an internist or D.O. might also be an option. If the doctor's for you, getting primary care from an Ob/Gyn is also not unheard of (though I've no idea whether FPs frown on it).

The standard advice for finding professionals--ask friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc. for recommendations--applies. If you're too new to town for that to work, and insurance coverage is an issue, see if the insurer will at least let you be "assigned" to a group practice with a bunch of staff PCPs so that you'll have the freedom to switch among their doctors without enduring paperwork hassles or waiting for the next "enrollment period" (full disclosure: I work with a large group practice. And am NOT a medical professional, by the way).

Don't feel shy about asking directly for qualifications. No one should be offended by the question, and in fact I'd avoid anyone who wasn't proud to show off their CV to every prospective patient. You'll be surprised by the variability. Not every doctor did a residency. Not every doctor's internship, residency, fellowship, or board cert was in a field they're currently practicing. Not every doctor bothers to get board certified. Ask too how long the doctor has been practicing in their current field. Once you compare quals of even 2 or 3 docs, you'll notice some obvious differences. From there, nothing wrong with picking based on personal criteria like gender preference, rapport, convenient office hours, billing flexibility, helpfulness of office staff (don't underestimate that one! You'll be spending much more time at their mercy than with any doctor), etc. Whatever makes you feel comfortable.

P.S. Another good question to ask is how busy the doc is, and how hard it is to get an appt with him or her. The doc who is utterly fantastic but is so overboooked that there's a 6 month backlog will be pretty useless for anything but the predictable annual physical.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:35 PM on September 5, 2004

Also don't be afraid to ask questions about the health issues which matter to you the most. If you want to stop smoking, it's good to know if your doctor is from the "tough it out" old school or would give you a script for Zyban if you so desired. If you have children or are planning to in the near future, it's good to know if your doctor will work with your parenting choices for things like breastfeeding or immunizations. If you have a chronic illness, ask how knowledgeable the doctor is about that illness and whether or not he pays attention to the latest developments regarding that illness from the professional orgs at the forefront of it.
posted by Dreama at 2:48 AM on September 6, 2004

Upon finding out which doctors are covered by your insurance, take the list to the library. The ABMS publishes a Directory of Board-Certified Medical Specialists; it'll at least give you an idea which of the doctors are board-certified.
While you're there, you might ask the librarian if a local/regional magazine publishes a list of the best doctors in the area; it's a little hit-or-miss, but it's not so unusual.
posted by willpie at 5:31 AM on September 6, 2004

Thanks everyone. I started out with google, but that was a little overwhelming. This will give me a more focused place to start.
posted by chiababe at 9:48 AM on September 6, 2004

ditto what nakedcoedmonkey said. unsatisfied with my old doctore, i polled friends for recommendations. i have a new doctor that i adore and have recommended to friends. in addition to the gold, they can stear you away from the clunkers.
posted by heather at 3:30 PM on September 6, 2004

The AMA also provides a Doctor Finder. With this you can check to see whether the doctor you've selected is an AMA member; where he or she went to med school and did their professional training such as internship and residency; and even if they participate in Continuing Medical Education activities. (I recommend the latter; have no position on the other two.)

I believe this website also lists disciplinary actions filed against doctors. If I were a patient I guess those are things I'd want to know about - as a physician it just scares me a little :)
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:38 PM on September 6, 2004 [1 favorite]

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