How to Choose the Right Doctor for You

Life is full of important decisions: PlayStation or Xbox? Britney or Christina? New York-style or Chicago deep dish?

Depending on how much you eat of that last one, there might not be any decision more important than who your doctor is. Joking aside, picking the right primary care provider matters. This is, after all, the person you’re entrusting to take care of your health.

Whether you’re in a big city or a little one, looking at Philadelphia doctors or Kingston doctors, here are some things to think about when choosing the doctor for you.

Insurance

It’s unfortunate but in America right now, the first thing you have to consider when choosing a primary care provider is whether or not he or she takes your insurance. It’s not even worth looking at any other aspects of a doctor’s skills or history if you can’t afford them. Finding the perfect doctor only to realize that your insurance won’t cover their care can be a huge disappointment. Avoid it by figuring out which doctors accept your insurance first, and then go about narrowing down your search from there.

Specialty

When looking for a primary care provider, there’s nothing wrong with sticking with a general practitioner (that is, a medical “jack of all trades”), especially if you are in mostly good health. However, if you have any preexisting medical conditions, it’s worth the effort to try to find a doctor with a background specializing in your affliction. Having a primary care provider with a specific focus on cardiovascular medicine, for instance, will be a big help if you suffer from high blood pressure or heart disease. Or, if you’re the parent of a special needs child, having a doctor who has and treats many similar patients will help ensure you get the level of treatment you need.

Accessibility

It doesn’t do you much good if you find a great doctor who works farther away than you’re willing or able to travel. Seeing your doctor regularly is important, so make sure that you can actually do that. You may think a little inconvenience isn’t a big deal, but if it leads to you seeing your doctor less then that’s never a good thing. On a related note, check with your insurance to see if they offer reimbursement for travel expenses. Even a few bucks for gas here and there can add up over time.

Reputation

The first thing most of us do when looking for a new doctor is ask family and friends for recommendations. That might not seem like the most scientific way to go about things, but it’s a pretty good start. If you want to find the right primary care provider, look for one that has proven themselves. Healthy patients are happy patients, and happy patients are usually the mark of a good doctor. Websites like Healthgrades and RateMDs allow you to go outside your immediate circle and read reviews written by past patients. While both good and bad opinions should be taken with a grain of salt, they can at least point you in the right direction.

Personality

Obviously the most important qualities a doctor can possess are knowledge and experience. But personality isn’t immaterial. Sure, you can have a nice person who’s a lousy doctor (and vice versa), but if you don’t get along with your doctor it’s unlikely you’re going to communicate well with them. Good communication is key. You don’t have to become best friends, but at the very least you want a doctor who you feel respects you, understands you, and won’t judge you.

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