How Do You Choose a Doctor?

July 13, 2009 | By | Comments (0)

Response-doctor_75 I've had to make a bunch of new doctor decisions in the last few years, and certainly in the last year I've been making more choices about health care than ever. (I switched from my OB/GYN practice to a midwifery practice; I am in the process of choosing a pediatrician for my yet-to-be-born baby.)

And so I've been thinking about what goes into your decisions about the provider you choose. Here's some of the top things to consider:

*For some people, a main factor mimics that old real estate saw: location, location, location. This is especially true for people in New York City with brand-new babies who are choosing a pediatrician. I know families who have sought out a baby doc who was specifically less than five city blocks from their apartment. But most people don't want an unreasonably long drive either.

*For others, office hours and other logistics are paramount—perhaps you work crazy hours yourself so you need a health-care provider who does some early morning appointments, or a few late-night hours. In the case of a pediatrician, a lot of parents are seeking a practice with Saturday hours or some walk-in times for those last-minute issues.

*What about general wait times and the kindness/helpfulness of the office staff? Something else to think about. There's an incredibly popular OB I know who's wait times are routinely two or more hours–and yet women line up for him, because he's so caring and so well-respected. Unresponsive, insensitive front-desk or nurses can be a deal-breaker.

*Insurance is a doozy too. A lot of doctors just aren't even accepting ANY insurance these days, and while your insurance may pay you back upon receiving eligible claims, I'm not quite so flush with cash that I can just outlay all that money for months at a time. And there's also the hassle-factor of having to remember to (properly) submit all those claim forms and whatnot.

Of course, the actual temperament, approach, and demeanor of the doctor is no small thing—although once you make it through all these hurdles (above) I have found that if I don't exactly adore the doctor's bedside manner or something, I CAN get over it. Of course, it depends on what I'm seeing the doctor for and how often I will be seeing him or her. I think I might feel differently about, say, an allergist than I do about my midwife or gynecologist.

*Finally, most people are looking for someone with impressive, solid training, and potentially a nearby hospital affiliation (again, the type of doctor and your reason for seeing him or her has a lot to do with this), and other credentials. 

I'm curious: what ranks tops for you? What pushes you over the edge to choosing a doctor or a practice? Is it logistics, like hours, vibe-type things, includines the niceness of the office staff, or do you go with someone who is simply the tippity-top in his or her field, no matter how difficult or onerous the process and the cost may be?

And for some help in knowing just what questions to ask of certain doctors (physicians, therapists, dentists) check out this helpful article.