How to choose a doctor that is right for you
The Northwell Health includes more than 9,440 physicians who are committed to your long term health and to providing the highest quality clinical care. We realize that finding a physician who fits your particular needs is critical to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and we have identified a few steps that can help find the doctor who is right for you.
Selecting a doctor is an important decision, and it can also be difficult. When faced with seemingly endless lists of available doctors, how do you know who to trust with your everyday health and any conditions that may emerge?
- Do you need a primary care physician (PCP)? This type of doctor, also commonly called a general practitioner, will manage your overall care and refer specialists if necessary.
- Please note that some PCPs train in primary care programs, like family medicine or pediatrics. Depending on your needs, you should research if any of these program-specific physicians are best for you.
- Additionally, some insurance plans consider gynecologists to be PCPs for the care of women. Check with your individual insurance plan to see if any subspecialists may qualify as your primary care physician.
- Are you looking for a specialist (a doctor who focuses on one area, like cancer or arthritis)?
- Financial and logistical factors:
- Will the doctor accept your insurance? If not, how much would you have to pay out of pocket to go to that physician?
- How far are you willing to travel to their office? If the doctor has multiple offices, make sure to check how many office hours they hold at each location.
- Do the office hours allow for you to schedule appointments around work and other commitments?
- Personal preferences:
- Do you prefer a male or female physician?
- Does the age of the doctor matter to you?
- Are you more comfortable with a doctor who uses a casual or professional conversational style?
- Do you want your doctor to be tech savvy (for example, communicating with patients via email)?
- Ask around. Do your family members, friends or colleagues have recommendations? If you go to a doctor already, ask if they can suggest a physician in the specialty that you need. Or, if you already visit a specialist, ask if they know of a PCP who you could reach out to. Just because someone else likes a doctor doesn’t mean they will be a fit for you, but referrals are a good place to start your additional research.
- Research and check for physician credentials and ratings. Is the doctor board certified in their specialty area? How highly regarded are their affiliated hospitals?
- When calling for an appointment, is it easy to schedule for a time and date that is convenient for you?
- Make sure to ask if timely appointments can be easily scheduled for urgent medical issues and about evening and weekend hours, especially if your schedule does not allow you to come in for an appointment during the typical workday.
- Are the receptionists helpful and courteous? Often, your experience with the office staff can be a barometer of what you can expect during your office visit.
- Come prepared. If you have questions, write them down beforehand and bring a pen and paper or your mobile device to take down notes during your visit. You may also want to consider bringing a friend or family member with you to the first appointment to ask questions that you may forget or take notes.
- During your visit, ask the doctor about their familiarity working with patients like you (your age, gender and conditions). If you require a specific procedure, ask how frequently they perform that particular procedure.
- Did you like and were you comfortable with the doctor? Remember, it’s important that you are at ease communicating and sharing all of your health information with your physician in order to receive the care you need and deserve.
- Did the physician and staff meet your expectations about preparing you for next steps, if necessary? If the physician recommended a follow-up visit, was the receptionist helpful in scheduling this appointment before you left the office?
- If you were expecting lab results, how much time passed before you got the results back?
- If visiting the physician for a specific illness or condition, did the office staff follow up with you to check how you were feeling? If not, is this level of follow up important to you?
Just because you meet with a physician once does not mean you have to go back. If you do not think that you can form a trusting relationship, it’s time to do some more research and explore other options. The most important factor to consider is your happiness at the end of this decision-making process. Don’t settle. Make sure you are confident in your doctor and the treatment they can provide. Our Find a Doctor tool serves as another helpful resource in your search. Just enter as many or as few search criteria as you want, including specialty, accepted insurance companies, language and geography, and we can help you find the Northwell Health physician who will become your partner in care.