The day may come when your primary care physician retires or moves for one reason or another. Finding a new doctor can be easier said than done. And you need to “train” him or her as to your specific needs and preferences. Certainly, your new doctor will have your records, but getting to know you will take a little time. First you need to find one.
The obvious choice is to ask your departing doctor if he or she has a trusted associate or up and coming mentee to whom you can transfer. Someone who is trustworthy, qualified and matches your personality.
Some insurance carriers require that you use doctors that are in their network. That means that you have a list to start with. You can look up from this list to see if you find someone you like. To vet them you can use websites like HealthGrades.com that report the experiences of others. Healthgrades includes virtually every doctor you would consider, including specialists. And, if you have a list derived from a source other than your insurer, make sure your doctor is in your insurance network.
NOTE: Generally speaking, those with a Medicare Advantage plan must work within the network of doctors you are assigned. Those with a Medicare Supplement plan likely do not have such limitations. And there are variations within those two choices, as well, so you may also want to explore a different insurance provider as you are looking for a new medical provider.
It is a good idea to do a quick background check on your prospective new doctor. It is easy to do using the website from the Federation of State Medical Boards. Just enter the doctor’s name and the state in which he or she practices, and you will learn of any disciplinary actions that may have been filed. And, of course, you can use a more public strategy by simply checking online reviews on Google or Yelp in addition to Healthgrades.
When considering a new medical relationship, a “test visit” may confirm your choice or suggest you look further. Ideally you want to work with compassionate, agreeable people who listen to your situation and are supportive and trustworthy. You do not want to work with people who dismiss your concerns and do not respect your time.
The logistics of getting to the doctor are also a consideration. Obviously, picking an office location relatively close to your residence is a consideration. Also important are ancillary services that relate to your medical care such as labs and X-rays are also important. These might include the availability of labs and X-rays that your new prospective doctor suggests… Another consideration are doctors that have tele-medicine services, so you don’t necessarily have to leave home to be “seen” by your doctor.
Even if the doctor is qualified and otherwise suitable, it does not matter if you cannot get an appointment. Part of your search process should include finding out how long it will generally take to get an appointment.
Your retiring doctor will provide the medical records you need to give to your new doctor. If, however, you are seeing other doctors for different conditions you will need to add to that information. You should also be able to articulate any symptoms you are experiencing, and medicines (including over the counter) you are taking. The new doctor will also want to know about your daily routine in terms of your living situation, eating habits, sleep patterns and smoking and drinking habits. Being prepared to share this information will get the relationship off to a good start.