Jan. 19, 2001 -- Whether you're new in town, your insurance
coverage has changed, or you're facing a health concern that calls for a
specialist, chances are that you'll be looking for a new doctor at some point.
But finding a physician you'll be happy with can take a lot of effort on your
According to experts, people often choose a doctor based on
gender. But researchers in northern California say that using gender to make
your decision doesn't always mean you'll be satisfied with your medical care.
And although the three A's -- affability, availability, ability -- are
important, you also should look at the C's -- credentials, certification,
competence, and convenience.
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So just how do you go about picking a doctor? One way is to use
the Internet, where medical organizations including the American Medical
Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the
American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and many
others list their members and their qualifications. A number of hospitals and
medical centers also provide such information.
In addition, some hospital systems offer call-in services that
can provide detailed information on physicians who practice in their
Dottie McCluskey is director of telemanagement for Texas Health
Resources, which operates the Well Call Center for Harris Methodist hospitals
and Presbyterian Healthcare System in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan area.
The service, free to both doctors and patients, makes physician referrals for
5,000 doctors who practice at 11 hospitals. They receive about 35,000 requests
for referrals each year.
According to McCluskey, the first thing you should do when
searching for a doctor is to determine what's important to you.
"The call should start with the caller themselves. They
should think about the profile of the physician they want before they call.
That really helps us," she tells WebMD.
The patient should consider whether they want a doctor near
their work or their home, if they need a specialist or a primary care
physician, and if they need someone who treats senior citizens and who accepts
Medicare, McCluskey says.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend deciding if
the hospitals where the doctor practices will be a factor in your decision.
Other considerations from the NIH that may be important to you
Age, sex, race, or religion of the doctor
Single doctor or group practice
Average length of office visit
Handling of emergency calls
A substitute for the doctor if he/she is away
Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD, president of the American Society
of Internal Medicine, says to call friends, local hospitals, and medical
societies to find names of physicians. "A lot of times, the same names will
come up. Narrow it down to three to five, then call the offices," she
recommends. "See how it feels -- if you can get through or you are put on
hold a lot."