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How to Choose the Right Doctor for You and Your Family.

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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 are:

  • Age, sex, race, or religion of the doctor
  • Single doctor or group practice
  • Office hours
  • 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."

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.

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