How to Choose the Right Doctor for You and Your Family
Choose the Right Doctor
Adamson Fryhofer also says that it's very important to check
board certification and whether they are fellows in medical organizations in
the specialties they practice. If they are, it's an indication that they get
continuing education in their medical field and are up-to-date. You can obtain
that information from the physicians' offices and from most of the professional
Another tip from Adamson Fryhofer is to find a primary care
physician with whom you can communicate and who is comfortable dealing with any
particular health issues you have. "You need someone who will direct your
medical care and will refer you to specialists if necessary," she says.
"You should not be afraid to ask physicians about these things; a good
primary care physician won't be threatened by these types of
McCluskey's Presbyterian Healthcare Well Call team gives each
patient up to three or four physicians' names, depending on how many they have
listed for the requested specialty. They update their physician profiles every
six months, with critical information -- such as change of location or phone
numbers -- added every three months. The profiles include all medical training,
certification by medical associations and boards, contact information,
insurance participation, special procedures, foreign languages spoken in the
office, hours, type of practice, special procedures, etc.
"The top questions we receive are about gender of the
doctor and insurance; age is third," McCluskey says. "Usually, the
younger women, ages about 18-30, request a female doctor for their ob-gyn."
She tells WebMD that the request for gender doesn't seem as important to their
callers when it involves other specialties.
Researchers from California, who surveyed more than 10,000 men
and women (average age 56) belonging to a large HMOs, were surprised to learn
that women patients who chose women doctors were the least satisfied with their
care. Conversely, men who chose women were the most satisfied. Nonetheless, the
women surveyed were more likely to choose a woman physician than were the male
According to one of the study's authors, Joe Selby, MD, the
level of patient satisfaction may be tied to their expectations of the
physician. These factors include communication and technical skills. Selby is
director of the Division of Research for Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program
of Northern California.
"In general, women had somewhat greater expectations of
their primary care physicians," Selby tells WebMD. "This included the
physician's willingness to listen to the patient and the physician's technical
The NIH says an initial interview/exam with a doctor may help
in your selection process, since that will give you a sense of how well you can
communicate. Although most physicians will charge an office visit fee for this
meeting, it will give you a chance to ask specific questions that will be
invaluable to your healthcare in the long run.