When you live with a long-term illness like atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), more than one doctor will likely be involved in your health care. Besides your regular doctor, you could also visit a cardiologist, vascular specialist, neurologist, nephrologist, lipidologist, and other specialists. These doctors help diagnose and treat ASCVD and other related illnesses. To find the right specialist, you’ll need to do some research and ask questions.
What’s Most Important in a Specialist?
To find the right specialist for you, you need to decide what’s most important to you. That depends on your specific needs. Write down the top qualities your doctor should have. For example, think about if you need a doctor who accepts evening appointments. If their qualifications are equal, do you feel more comfortable with a female doctor or one of your own race or ethnicity? Decide which things are essential to you and which are optional.
Ask for Suggestions
Ask the people in your life whose opinion you value to share the names of doctors they trust. Friends, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers are all great sources of information. Or maybe you already see a specialist but can no longer continue to visit them. Ask if they can suggest a colleague.
As you learn more, ask why they recommend a particular doctor. What do they like about them? Does their answer meet your guidelines?
Research and Narrow Your List
Equipped with your list of doctors, the next step is to find out all you can about them. The American Medical Association, the American Board of Medical Specialties, and the National Committee for Quality Assurance are all organizations with reliable information on doctors.
To find a provider who accepts Medicare, try Medicare.gov, which has a tool to search and compare doctors. Your local medical society also has details about complaints filed against specific doctors.
Your insurance provider may require you to choose an in-network doctor, or you may have the option of an out-of-network specialist for an added fee. Your insurance carrier will have more information about this, plus a list of local specialists.
Choose a Specialist and Ask Questions
The specialist you’re considering, or their staff, can answer questions about their office policies and expertise. If it makes you feel more comfortable, ask to meet the doctor before you see them for medical care. But keep in mind that this type of visit could come with a fee.
Here’s a list of questions to ask the specialist or office staff:
- Are you seeing new patients right now?
- What’s the earliest day and time I can make an appointment?
- How long does the doctor usually meet with each patient?
- What’s your cancellation policy?
- Do you allow family members to engage in health care decisions?
- If you’re busy, which provider will see me instead?
- With which hospital are you affiliated?
- Do you carry out lab work and X-rays at your office or elsewhere?
- What’s the best way to reach you outside of appointments?
- Do you offer evening, weekend, or telehealth appointments?
- What type of special training or certifications do you have?
- Do you or another staff member speak my preferred language?
Think About How Your Visit Went
You’ve visited your new specialist. Now, it’s time to reflect on how things went. Here are some follow-up questions to consider:
- What was my comfort level with the specialist?
- Did the doctor and office staff explain everything in an easy-to-understand way?
- Did they truly listen to my questions and concerns?
- Were they respectful and considerate?
- Was there enough time during the visit for the doctor to address my concerns?
- Does the doctor understand my personal and family health history?
- Did they describe my diagnosis and treatment in a way that makes sense?
- Do I know when to come back to the doctor’s office for a follow-up visit?
The answers to these questions will help you figure out whether you can trust the doctor with your long-term medical care. If not, take another look at your list of other potential specialists.
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Top Doctors UK: “What does a lipidologist do?”
National Institute on Aging: “How to Choose a Doctor You Can Talk To.”
MyHealthFinder: “Choosing a Doctor: Quick Tips.”
Winchester Hospital: “Beyond Primary Care: Choosing a Medical Specialist.”
Consumer Reports: “How to Find a Good Doctor.”
Penn Medicine: “How to Find and Choose a Cardiologist.”
The American Board of Surgery: “Training & Certification.”
American Board of Psychology and Neurology Inc.: “Check Physician Status.”
National Lipid Association: “Certification.”