There are probably a few hundreds of generalists who can treat most conditions to specialists who focus on one type of patient or one specific condition. We all face the same challenge when trying to find just the right specialist for our needs. Whether it’s a dermatologist, family physician, neurologist, or some other kind of medical professional, there are so many different types that choosing one can be overwhelming. How do you know which doctor is right for you? What does each specialist do? Here are some of the ways that can help you get the best one for you.
Ask for a recommendation from someone you trust.
Ask your family and friends if they have any recommendations for doctors. Doctors who have a longstanding, good relationship with their patients often have a waiting list of people wanting to see them. If you can get the name of a doctor through a trusted friend or family member, you can start there. If you want to be more systematic about it, there are websites that allow patients to rate and review their doctors. Be sure to select sites that have a good mix of reviews. Some sites only have positive reviews, which can be misleading if you are trying to find doctors who are good but not perfect.
Check out the doctor’s track record.
One thing that is important to know about every doctor is how well they treat the type of diseases or conditions you’re looking for help with. If you have a specific condition, check out the doctor’s “success rate” with that type of patient. You can look this up online. There are many websites that collect and publish data about doctors, often based on data from state medical boards or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that regulate doctors. You can sometimes find databases with information about doctors in your community. Ask your state medical board if they have any data or statistics about doctors in your area.
Find someone who speaks your language.
If you have a specific medical condition, it can be helpful to find a specialist who has experience with people like you. For example, if you have arthritis, it might be helpful to find a rheumatologist. If you have diabetes, it might be important to find a diabetes specialist. If you are caring for a baby or child with a specific medical condition, it might be important to find a pediatrician. Specialists often focus on a specific age or stage of life or on a certain type of patient. There are many subspecialties in medicine. If you have a specific condition, check out the medical subspecialties related to your condition. You can find lists of subspecialties on the websites of most medical associations.
Decide what matters to you most.
With so many options, it’s easy to get stuck comparing one doctor to another and getting nowhere. Your best bet is to make a list of your top five doctor characteristics and then work backwards from there. Make sure to take the time you need to make the best decision for you. What is your budget? How many visits do you want to make? What would you like to see the physician for? What is the doctor’s experience? Where is the doctor located? What does the doctor’s office look like? Are the staff members friendly? Does the doctor have a good online presence? What recommendations do you have for others in a similar situation?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
If you meet with a doctor and have questions, ask those questions. You are the patient and have every right to know as much as you can about the doctor who will be treating you. You can ask about the doctor’s experience, training and specializations, practice style, insurance acceptance, and learn what they recommend for you. You can also ask how they would go about treating you and how often you would need to visit. There are no dumb questions when it comes to finding a good doctor. And remember, if you don’t feel comfortable with a doctor, don’t be afraid to walk away and try again.
Choosing the right doctor is one of the most important decisions you’ll make while navigating the healthcare system. There are hundreds of specialists to choose from, each with different approaches and areas of expertise. Many of these decisions are difficult to make, but can be made easier by asking for a recommendation, researching doctors, and asking lots of questions. Now you know what to look for in a health specialist, you can make a decision that will positively impact your health.