Finding the right health care provider can make a big difference in your health.
The right doctor will:
- Make sure you have regular screenings, tests, and vaccinations
- Treat your current health and mental health conditions
- Refer you to a specialist when you need one
If you’ve recently moved, changed jobs, changed insurance plans, or don’t feel good about your current provider, it may be a good time to find a new doctor.
Here’s how to do it and what to look for.
Check With Your Insurance Provider
Who you choose may depend on your insurance plan.
Some insurance plans require you to choose an in-network doctor. This is someone your insurance company has an agreement with to provide services at certain rates.
You may have the option to choose an out-of-network doctor. This may cost more but will give you more doctors to choose from.
Check with your insurance provider to see what your options are and how much they cost. You can find a directory of physicians on their website or by calling the number on the back of your insurance card.
If you don’t have insurance, you can look for coverage at HealthCare.gov.
Choose a Primary Care Doctor
Your insurance provider may want you to choose a primary care doctor to oversee your care.
Think of your primary care doctor as your go-to for all your health needs. You’ll see them for wellness visits, routine screenings, and illnesses like a sore throat, the flu, or a sprained ankle. When you have questions, you’ll reach out to your primary care doctor.
Your primary care provider can also refer you to a specialist if you need one. A specialist has extra training in one specific area of medicine. Check with your insurance company to make sure the specialist is covered by your plan.
Most primary care doctors specialize in family medicine or internal medicine. If you’d like your whole family to see the same doctor, look for a family medicine physician. If you have a chronic condition, it may be best to choose an internist.
Where to Find a Doctor
Try to get recommendations from someone you know and trust. Ask family members or friends if they have someone they recommend.
You can also ask:
- Your co-workers
- Your current doctor (if you’re moving to a new area)
- Your dentist
- Your neighbors
You can also find a list of health care providers through your insurance company. Check their website or call the 800 number on the back of your insurance card.
What to Look for in a Doctor
Look for a doctor who’s board-certified, which means they’ve earned a qualified medical degree, completed ample training, passed the right exams, have had continuing education, and are licensed by their state medical board.
You can check to see if they’re certified at certificationmatters.org. You can also find doctor profiles at fsmb.org/PDC.
Other things to consider when you choose a health care provider include:
- Evening and weekend appointments
- Hospitals they’re affiliated with
- How insurance is filed
- Individual practice vs. group practice
- Languages spoken
- Preferred communication (phone or online portal)
- Same-day appointments
- Special training or certifications
- Staff friendliness
- Availability of telemedicine, or virtual health (when you see the doctor over the phone or on a computer)
During your first visit, look for things like staff friendliness, efficiency, cleanliness, and wait time. Pay attention to how they interact and communicate with you.
- Do the doctor and staff treat you with respect?
- Do they spend enough time with you?
- Do they listen to your concerns and opinions without interrupting?
- Do they encourage questions?
- Do they explain things clearly?
- Do they discuss follow-up visits?
- Do you feel like you’re working together as a team?
It’s important to find a doctor who’s sensitive to your unique needs. You may prefer one who looks like you, is of a similar race or ethnicity, or has specific experience working with people who are similar to you.
People of color. If you prefer a Black or Indigenous health care provider, start with recommendations from family or friends. Look online to see photos provided by the doctor you’re considering. Call their office and ask if they have a doctor who looks like you or speaks your native language.
Try phone apps like HUED, which connect patients with minority doctors, or Ayana, which connects people with licensed mental health therapists based on race, ethnicity, disability, and LGBTQ+ status.
LGBTQ+. You may feel more comfortable seeing a doctor who has experience with LGBTQ+ patients, especially if you’re transgender. If they understand the issues you face, they may be better at giving you skilled and respectful care.
Call the office and see if the doctor has any LGBTQ+ patients, is experienced in handling transgender care, and if they’re comfortable providing care to patients like you.
Reach out to LGBTQ+ community centers for recommendations. You can also try online directories like OutCare and GLMA. Your insurance company may also have a list of LGBTQ-friendly providers.
Women, children, and seniors. Look for a woman if you’re more comfortable sharing personal health information with someone of the same gender. If you’re looking for someone experienced in different stages of childhood, choose a pediatrician. If you’re a senior and prefer someone with experience treating older adults, look for a geriatrician.
No matter who you choose, look for someone you’re comfortable with and trust. If you have the right doctor, you’re more likely to see them when you need to and follow their recommendations, which is good for your health.
If you find one doctor and aren’t happy with them, keep looking. It may take time to find the right one for you.