Finding the best healthcare provider to meet your needs is a challenging task. It’s helpful to find someone you feel comfortable talking to who shares your health goals.
Your primary care provider is the person you see for more general health concerns. This person is usually a doctor but could also be a nurse practitioner or physician assistant.
You may also have a variety of specialists you see as part of your healthcare team. The types of specialists will depend on your health needs and stage of life.
There are many reasons to be looking for a new healthcare provider. Maybe your health has changed, and you need to see a specialist. Maybe you’ve moved and need a new family doctor. Or perhaps you feel like the partnership with your current provider isn’t quite working for you.
Here are some questions to consider as you go through the process of switching healthcare providers.
It’s smart to give any potential provider a quick call to find out if they’re accepting new patients. This will also give you an idea of how easy it is to reach the office and how fast they respond if you need to leave a message.
Your health insurance plan may only cover providers within a certain network. If you decide to see a provider outside of this network, you’ll need to pay more out of pocket. You can contact your insurance company to find out more about coverage.
If you have Medicare, you can find out if a provider accepts Medicare here.
If you’re shopping for health insurance, check to see which providers are in network when considering your options. You can usually find out by searching the insurance plan’s site to see whether certain providers are in network.
You’ll want to feel comfortable working with your healthcare provider and their office staff. Office staff can include nurses, physician assistants, and reception.
If you’re looking for a family doctor, this person could be your healthcare provider for many years. A specialist may be part of your healthcare team for a short or long time, depending on your health needs.
Consider getting provider recommendations from:
- another trusted healthcare provider
- condition-specific support groups (if you’re looking for a specialist)
Another way to determine if the provider is a good match for you is by reading patient reviews posted online on sites like Zocdoc or Healthgrades.
Of course, meeting a potential provider in person is the best way to know if they’re a good fit for you.
You can view the first meeting with a new care provider as an interview. Consider the following:
- Did you feel like the provider listened to your needs and answered your questions?
- Did you have enough time, or was the appointment rushed?
- Did the provider make an effort to get to know you?
- Does the provider have a good understanding of your health concerns?
You may want to visit the clinic before setting up an appointment to get a sense of:
- Distance. How long does it take to get there from work or home? If you use public transit, is it on the bus route?
- Parking. Is there parking on-site or nearby?
- Accessibility. Are there elevators or ramps if needed? Is it a long walk to the office once you’re in the building? Is there enough space in the waiting area for wheelchairs, walkers, or strollers?
- Atmosphere. How does it feel walking into the clinic? Is the waiting area welcoming, clean, and pleasant?
- Staff. You’ll have lots of contact with the office staff when you call to ask questions or book appointments. Do you feel comfortable speaking with them?
Some healthcare providers work alone in a clinic, and others work in a group. In a group practice, you may be able to see another provider if your usual doctor is away.
Consider asking the following questions:
- What are the office hours?
- Is there care available after hours? What should I do if I need after-hours care?
- How long is the wait for an appointment?
- Does this provider work solo or as part of a group practice? Will I always see my doctor?
- Can health questions be answered over the phone or through a secure email?
When searching for a new healthcare provider, there are several things to consider. You’ll want to feel comfortable with the person and confident you’re getting the best care. Location, availability, and after-hours services also matter to ensure smooth access to care.