Being an Informed Consumer
Choosing a Doctor
Be an informed consumer by taking an active role in building a partnership with your doctor that may lead to better health.
-Choosing a doctor for you or your loved one can be a difficult task. There are a
number of things to consider when making your decision.
-Ask family and friends for any recommendations. Ask them what they like and what they don't like about their doctor.
-Research the World Wide Web for doctors in your local area.
-Location can be an important part of your decision. You may not want to make a lengthy
drive, if you are not feeling well.
-Make sure the doctor you choose is an approved provider for your insurance.You an check with your insurance plan for a list of health providers in your area by looking online or by calling their office
-Ask the doctor at what hospitals he/she treats patients.
-Is the doctor in practice alone or do they have partners? The number of doctors in a practice can impact your ability to access healthcare; for example, more doctors in a practice may mean that you can get an appointment sooner.
-What are the office hours? Do they fit your needs? How long does it take to get an appointment?
-Does the doctor have multiple office locations? If he/she does, how does that impact your ability to access him/her during office hours?
-How can you reach medical assistance after office hours?
-How are emergency concerns handled?
-You may have other questions that are important to you. Don't be afraid to ask. It may help to write your questions down ahead of time. Your primary care doctor frequently guides your treatment and you must feel comfortable and confident with your decision
Preparing for Appointments
Preparing for the doctor’s appointment will add meaning to the purpose of your visit.
You can be an active partner in your and your loved one’s healthcare.-Get a notebook.
Record all information in one place.
-Write out the main reason for your phone call, visit, or appointment.
-Identify key questions that you would like answered.
-Take notes during your appointment and conversations.
-Write out your loved one’s diagnosis, medications, and any new word that you would
like the doctor to further explain. Correct spelling and abbreviations will help prevent
confusion and save time if you choose to seek further information from other resources,
such as the pharmacist, general Internet sites, or the Caring~Web©.
-Check ahead and confirm appointment date, time, and place.
-Make sure appointment tests and laboratory results have been received and reviewed.
-If referred to a specialist, confirm that your loved one’s chart has been received.
-Make sure the appointment referral process and paper work has been completed for insurance reimbursement purposes.
Do Not Leave the Appointment More Confused
No one will know that you do not understand unless you tell them.
-Ask your loved one if he/she would like to have you present at office visits. Discuss issues of confidentiality. Does your healthcare provider require a consent in order to communicate with you?
-Every second does count! It is important to be organized and concise with your questions.
-Ask the professional to draw a picture to help you better understand.
-Be honest during the visit. Do not hold back information due to embarrassment.
-If the healthcare provider is strained for time, ask if someone on his/her staff can help. Ask for phone numbers of resources or Web sites that may be useful.
-Once you have chosen your doctor, it is important to have good communication with your doctor or any healthcare provider. By giving a clear description of symptoms, asking questions, and sharing concerns you will contribute to building a partnership of give-and-take, honesty and trust, with your doctor. Taking the time to understand and follow the doctor’s plan may help you better manage your and your loved one’s healthcare needs and may lead to an overall improvement in health.
Consumer Reports. (2011). How to choose a doctor. Retrieved from http://www.consumerreports.org/health/doctors-hospitals/your-doctor-relationship/how-to-choose-a-doctor/getting-started/getting-started.htm
Derstine, J., & Hargrove, S. (2001). Comprehensive rehabilitation nursing. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Medline Plus. (2011). Choosing a doctor or healthcare service. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/choosingadoctororhealthcareservice.html
National Institute on Aging. (2009). Choosing a doctor. Retrieved from www.nia.nih.gov
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2009). Find services and information: Find a doctor or health care provider. Retrieved from www.healthfinder.gov
Developed in 2003 by Heather Pierce, BA, LSW and Linda Pierce, PhD, RN at the University of Toledo for Caring~Web©.
Revised 2010, 2012