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How to Choose the Right Doctor for You and Your Family

Choose the Right Doctor

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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 medical associations.

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 questions."

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 respondents.

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 expertise."

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.

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