5 Tips for Finding a New Physician
1. Ask for Recommendations
Whether you’ve recently moved to a new town, your insurance coverage has changed, or you’ve just been diagnosed with a new condition or a diabetes-related complication, there are tried-and-true ways to find a new doctor.
If you’re looking for a new primary care physician, start by reaching out to your friends and coworkers. “It’s just a person’s opinion, but it really rates bedside manner, approachability, and how a doctor communicates,” says Jennifer Wyckoff, MD, an endocrinologist and associate professor at University of Michigan Hospitals.
Moving to an area where you don’t know anyone? Ask your current provider to recommend a doctor in your new location. Or look to diabetes education programs or support groups in the area, where you can connect with nurses, certified diabetes educators, and other people with diabetes. “Diabetes nurses and dietitians are probably your best source of information,” Wyckoff says. “They’ll have a really good idea of the best doctors in town.”
Keep location in mind. Your primary care doctor, in particular, should be in a convenient location in case of emergencies.
The same tips apply if you’re looking for a specialist, such as an endocrinologist or cardiologist, but you can also ask your primary care doctor for recommendations. Your diabetes care team will need to work together, so this is a good way to ensure your doctors already have a good relationship.
Regardless of which type of doctor you’re searching for, ask for a list of names in case one doesn’t work out. And be wary of ratings websites, Wyckoff says, as they can be inaccurate and out of date.
2. Loop in Your Team
Make sure everyone on your care team is sharing information with one another. “A lot of medications or treatment options that are chosen depend on multidisciplinary care,” say Adriana Kuker, MD, an endocrinologist with NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group Westchester. “If there are any eye complications related to diabetes, any nervous system complications, it’s important that everybody’s on the same page.”
If your doctors are all in the same medical system, they’ll likely share an electronic health record system, and communication will be easy. This is another reason to get specialist recommendations from your primary care doctor; he or she may suggest colleagues in the same medical system. If your health care providers are part of different medical systems, provide each with the others’ office fax numbers or e-mail addresses and ask that they forward any consultation notes to the other members of your care team.
3. Check Insurance Coverage
Once you have recommendations, see which options are covered under your plan. Visit your insurance provider’s website to search for doctors in your area who accept your insurance. Or call the number on the back of your insurance card to ask for a list of local doctors.
Another option: Reach out to the offices of the doctors you’re considering and ask what insurance they accept. “At our clinic, we have patient financial advisors on-site who can help patients go through bills and figure out their insurance coverage,” says Maya Venkataramani, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
4. Transfer Your Records
Seeing a new doctor doesn’t mean starting from scratch. Transfer your medical records to save time for both you and your physician. “It’s hard for me to know how to progress without knowing what workup they’ve had in the past,” says Karen Blumenthal, MD, MPH, a primary care doctor with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Providing your new doctor with a full picture of your medical history up front helps ensure a productive visit.
Don’t trust yourself to share your information orally. “People often don’t understand their medical history. They’ll say things that are potentially incorrect,” Blumenthal says. “If someone had their cholesterol checked two months ago [but] they’re unaware that that happened, that’s really not a valuable test I’ve just done.”
The best way to guarantee a smooth transition is to transfer records before leaving your previous physician. If you didn’t do that, you can still be proactive. Reach out to your previous doctor’s office and ask that they send your records. This often requires signing a form and paying a small fee. Once you have the records, send them to your new doctor’s office after making your first appointment, or bring them with you for the initial visit.
You need to feel comfortable with your doctors, and that’s not always going to happen on the first try. Maybe your new physician has a poor bedside manner. Maybe your personalities don’t click. Or maybe the office is simply too busy and you have a difficult time booking appointments. You shouldn’t feel locked in. “Not everyone is going to feel comfortable with every single doctor, and I don’t think any doctor gets offended by that,” Kuker says.
A single visit may not be enough to tell whether your new doctor is right for you. You or the doctor may just have had an off day. If you think the situation can improve, voice your concerns. But if you don’t see a long-term future, look elsewhere. That said, it’s generally a good idea to hang onto your existing primary care doctor until you find a new one in case an emergency comes up.