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Tips for Finding a New Doctor When You Have Ongoing Health Needs

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I had a hematologist for 10 years after my stroke. We had a great patient/doctor relationship and worked well together. Then at my last office visit she told me that she was switching specialties and this was her final week caring for patients. I was in shock and saddened because she was the best physician and treated me as a person, not as a patient.

After pulling myself together, I went home and started researching doctors by contacting my primary physician for some names and asking a couple of my friends in the medical field. Half of the hematologists were either not in my insurance network or they just weren’t accepting new patients.  I finally found one who had a five star rating on three different websites, plus he was taking patients. Then several months later, my neurologist was retiring and I had to search all over again.

There are times when patients are forced to find a new physician, especially when they retire or no longer accept certain insurance plans. This can be stressful if they have no idea where to begin looking for a doctor that specializes in their particular health condition. Besides signing a waiver to give permission for the  medical records department to send the patient files to the new office, it’s best to ask your primary care physician who’d they’d recommend and prefer. Then check to make sure that the doctor is within your health insurance’s network, otherwise the cost of the deductible and co-payments will be higher.

Before finalizing my decision in choosing a medical facility, I ask the office staff and doctor several questions:

For the office staff:

1. What is the procedure for requesting medication refills?
2. If I can’t afford to pay a bill, will the billing office allow me to set up a payment plan?
3. If necessary, am I able to schedule a same-day appointment for urgent situations?
4. Will I be getting an office summary report after my visit that lists what was discussed during my exam?
5. Do you accept my insurance?

For the doctor:

1. How many years of experience do you have?
2. Do you have any experience with my condition?
3. What hospitals are you affiliated with?
4. Is someone on call for after hours emergencies?
5. Do you encourage patients to ask questions and express their opinion?

Concerns will vary among patients who are looking for a primary physician or specialist, as each person is unique when it comes to their care. By educating ourselves about a medical professional’s background, their patient satisfaction ratings, and if our insurance has them in their network, we can find the best possible care to support our health and well being.

Getty image by Demaerre.

Originally published: December 3, 2018
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