Finding doctor right

Wellness | March 1, 2018
Tips and sources to find the just-right fit

Looking for a new provider can be stressful, and rewarding when you find that just-right fit. Armed with the right tips and tools, it can be a little easier. Our doctors offer their thoughts to guide you to the best possible partnership.

Patient, know thy self

Choosing a provider is about knowing yourself, says David Ruiz, MD, of PeaceHealth Southwest Washington Family Medicine in Vancouver, Washington.

“It all depends on how you relate to your clinician,” he explains. “We all receive and act on information in different ways. The more you can ask questions and feel comfortable doing so, the better match that person is for you.”

Important factors to look for in a provider include gender, age, years in practice, and how you believe the provider keeps up with latest in medical literature. When you know which of these qualities are most important to you, you can find the one who is a good match. Then you will be the best partner you can be in your own healthcare.

“The clinician’s experience and style matter most,” Dr. Ruiz said, “in finding the best match for you. Everyone wants the 4- or 5-star clinician from online ratings, but that might not be the best one for your style.” What works for others might not work for you.

Tracy Schmitz, MD, of PeaceHealth Medical Group Oregon in Eugene, agrees. “Find someone you identify with,” she says. “Talk to your friends and find out who they see. If you get along with someone, you’ll probably get along with their doctor.”

Most providers will give you similar information, explains Dr. Schmitz, “So find someone who will tell you in a style that works for you.”

10 ways to find a doctor

Patients have many online resources that rate and review providers, including our own Find a Doctor site. These can be a good place to start. More traditional search methods can also work very well.

Factors to keep in mind include:

  •   Location. Would you rather see a provider near your home, or near your office? Do you prefer a clinic close to a lab?
  •   Insurance. Does the provider take your insurance? Are they considered in or out of your network?
  •   Gender. Would you feel more comfortable with a female provider or male?
  •   Language. Would you prefer someone who speaks both English and another specific language?
  •   Type of care. Primary or specialty, family medicine or age specific? Do you have known conditions that require specialized care?
  •   Style. Do you communicate better with more mature or younger providers? Is experience or knowledge of the latest literature more important to you?
  • Taking new patients. Are they currently open? Would you like to get on a waiting list if they have one? This last point is a sticky one. Nationally, there is a shortage of providers and many in the Pacific Northwest feel the pinch. Finding a provider who is taking new patients can be difficult. What can you do if there aren’t enough doctors in your area to see everyone? Here are a few options to consider:
    • Sign up for one (or more) waiting lists for your preferred doctor(s). 
    • While you’re waiting, assess your health needs to determine the types of care you need regularly. Then explore clinics or services that can meet those needs. 
    • Online visits. If you’re comfortable with the idea of using your smartphone or computer for non-urgent medical care, ask family or friends for recommended sources.

 Where to look:

  1. PeaceHealth Find a Doctor. Our online tool offers information about providers who practice at PeaceHealth clinics or hospitals, including education, ratings and reviews from patients, location with map, and contact information.
  2. Preferred clinic web site. No matter where you live, if you know which clinic works best for you, use their site to see the clinicians who can serve you there.
  3. Your insurance in-network list. This can be very important for big billing differences. In-network providers are preferred by your insurance, and almost always end up costing you less out of pocket.
  4. American Medical Association Doctor Finder. This service provides professional information about virtually every licensed physician in the United States, including more than 814,000 doctors.
  5. Health Grades. A basic search with reviews, ratings, contact and insurance information.
  6. Referral from friends. If you get along with someone, you’ll probably communicate well with a provider they like.
  7. Referral from family. Many families find comfort in sharing one family medicine provider or clinic.
  8. Referral from colleagues. If you share the same insurance coverage, this is a smart way to find in-network providers.
  9. Physician Compare, MedicareFind and compare clinicians enrolled in Medicare, serving patients with this coverage.
  10. Rate MDs. Public review site that ranks by rating, and includes “Accepting new patients” option.

It may take a few tries. Both Drs. Ruiz and Schmitz agree that patients should switch doctors if they feel uncomfortable, until they find that just-right fit.

Primary or specialty care?

Primary care providers can be doctors (MD or DO), physician’s assistants (PA), or nurse practitioners (NP). They can specialize in family medicine for people all ages, geriatrics (for those who have a few more years under their belt), pediatrics for the kids or those under age 18 or internal medicine for adults, 18 and older. 

Most people don’t need more than one clinician, said Dr. Ruiz. Often their primary care provider can cover a wide range of services. “You don’t necessary need a gynecologist for a routine pelvic exam,” he said. “Social culture tells us when you need that service, you see a Gyn, but Gyns are surgeons.”

However, for people with some complex medical situations, the primary care physician can help determine when a specialist is needed.

“At that point, it’s great idea for patient and clinician to have a transparent discussion about how medical care should be prioritized,” said Dr. Ruiz. “In other words, your primary care provider can say, ‘I’ll see you for these issues, but go to a specialist for those issues.’ ”

Is my child too old for a pediatrician?

This is usually a personal preference of the patient, said Dr. Schmitz. “Many young patients would rather not be in a waiting room full of small children once they reach their teenage years. Pediatricians will usually start the transition at 18 years old.”

On the other hand, if a young person is comfortable with a trusted pediatric provider, he or she may stay with that provider through college, or until age 21.

Many people like the familiarity (and stability) of seeing one family medicine clinician, or one clinic, for everyone in their family, from the youngest to the oldest.

Already have a doctor you love? Check out this post on how to make the most of your appointments.