A routine yearly exam is an integral part of preventive medicine. You can work with your doctor to identify problems before they develop further, which is especially important as you age. But are you seeing a doctor that fits your needs? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you trust your doctor?
- Do you communicate well with each other?
- Do you trust and communicate well with their staff?
- Do they have experience with older adults and the health problems they typically face?
If your answer to any of these questions is no, it may be time to look for a new physician. Doctors know that different patients require diverse attention and care, so don’t feel guilty striking out in a new direction.
Whether you’re new in town or are simply looking for a different set of skills, here’s a few things the National Institute on Aging wants older adults to keep in mind.
- Set priorities
What matters to you? Good communication? Do you want a doctor who specializes in older adults? Do you need your doctor’s office to be near work or home? Do you want to be at a private practice or a larger hospital system? Decide which issues are most important for you and make a list of providers in the area that fit your search terms.
- Ask around
Good doctors have good reputations. Ask family and friends which doctor they see and what they like about them. Find out what your trusted confidants like about their doctor and ways they could improve. Conversely, find out if family and friends would put a red flag on any of the names on your list.
- Consider your health insurance
If you are part of a managed care plan like a health maintenance organization or a preferred provider organization, you’ll need to confirm your new doctor is in your network or risk paying “out-of-network” fees.
- Consult references
Make sure the names on your list are properly certified by checking the databases linked below. Call your local or state medical board as well to see if any of your finalists have a history of complaints from former patients.
Where to cross-reference your list:
- American Medical Association’s Doctor Finder
- American Board of Medical Specialties’ Certification Matters
- MedlinePlus from National Library of Medicine
- Medicare Physicians
You can also make an appointment to talk with the doctors you are considering. Most will charge you for their time, but it’s a good exercise to determine if you could work well together. Ask them questions like:
- Do you have many older patients?
- How do you feel about involving my family in care decisions?
- Can I call or email you or your staff when I have questions? Do you charge for telephone or email time?
- What are your thoughts about complementary or alternative treatments?
- Make a decision
Did you have good rapport with the doctor? Did you feel listened to and comfortable asking questions? If you answered yes, then you’ve found the right person. Set up an appointment, have your patient history transferred to your new doctor’s office, and inform them of any medications you are currently taking.
Make sure your doctor is the right person to walk with you in every stage of life. As your needs change, be sure you have a doctor who makes you feel comfortable and heard.