How Do I Find a New Doctor?
Choosing a doctor and building a relationship with him or her is important for good health. While friends or family can sometimes suggest someone, there are also other resources that can give you information on a doctor’s background and practice before you make an appointment.
If you have health insurance, one of the first stops in your search should be your insurance company’s website or booklet for a directory of doctors within your network. Going to a doctor who's not in your network can result in high out-of-pocket costs for you. If you’re on Medicare, visit their Physician Compare site to find a doctor who accepts Medicare. Medicaid providers can be found at Medicaid.gov. Select your state to get to the provider listings.
DoctorFinder from the American Medical Association can help you locate a doctor nearest to you or you can sort by type of medical doctor, such as a heart specialist also known as a cardiologist.
Other resources that can get you started include:
- MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which offers directories for doctors, dentists, hospitals and clinics.
- The National Institute on Aging has information on choosing a doctor and useful questions to ask when deciding where to seek care.
- The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has advice columns from Dr. Carolyn Clancy including how to find a good doctor and resources to do so.
- Consumer Reports offers information on how to find a specialist or generalist, how to check physician credentials, and when to seek a second opinion.
For more information on finding a health care facility, see How to Choose a Hospital.
How Do I Find a Doctor If I Don’t Have Insurance?
If you don’t have health insurance, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides options for free or low cost care. You can visit Healtcare.gov to determine what coverage you are eligible for.
HHS also supports many community health centers that provide care, even if you have no health insurance. You pay what you can afford, based on your income. To find one near you, visit the HRSA site.
Another option is to contact a local doctor’s practice and ask if they will provide a discount if you pay with cash or a credit card. Some communities have “free clinics” where doctors volunteer their services. Local social services agencies or state public health departments can often help people find health care.
If you have a minor health problem, like a cold or a small accident, a walk-in retail or urgent care clinic might be a good choice. Walk-in clinics are located in some large chain drug stores such as Rite Aid and CVS or in Wal-Mart’s. Retail clinics have information upfront about the cost of care and the range of services they can provide. Costs are usually lower than a private practice and you will be expected to pay when you receive care.
For more information on finding health insurance, see Pay for Your Health Care.
What to Look for in a Good Doctor
Many people want their doctor to be nearby, competent and someone they are comfortable with. Other qualities may be important to you and your family when comparing doctors. These resources can help sort through what to consider:
- The "Choosing a Doctor" guide from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has several questionnaires to help you with a doctor search.
- Choosing a Family Doctor from the American Academy of Family Physicians. This guide can help you choose a doctor who can treat your whole family.
What about Doctor Ratings Websites?
Online doctor reviews can tell you a little about a doctor’s personality, whether they are on time for appointments, what languages they speak and more. Some of the information is collected from medical societies, doctor practices, health plans or even from patients.
However, doctor ratings websites are not well used and many physicians have very little online information or ratings or even none at all.
Organizations like the Informed Patient Institute (IPI), an independent nonprofit organization that provides credible online information about health care quality and patient safety for consumers, rates the usefulness of online doctor, hospital, and nursing home report cards. IPI doesn’t rate individual health facilities or practitioners — but they tell you who does.
We’ve also reviewed many popular doctor rating sites and suggest the following:
- Health Grades - provides reports and ratings of doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes for free including information such as license and board certification, conditions treated, a background check and languages spoken.
- Yelp - offers ratings on a variety of services, from restaurants to stores and some medical offices.
- DrScore - provides patient ratings of doctors
- RateMDs - allows you to find other patient ratings of family doctors by zip code or to find any doctor's rating by a region. It also allows you to see state medical board records, get maps and contact information.
- Angie’s List - contains detailed reviews from patients and consumers on a variety of services, including doctors. Requires registration and a fee
- Consumer Health Ratings offers a directory of organizations that rate or report performance on doctors, specific hospitals, nursing homes, health plans, and other health care providers.
Want even more information or help choosing a potential doctor? These companies offer detailed physician reports and patient consultations for a fee:
- Best Doctors –A for-profit consultation service with a database of 50,000 doctors worldwide.
- Castle Connolly Medical Research Inc.-offers a doctor-patient advisor, which is a one-on-one consultation service that pairs patients with a physician or specialty-trained nurse.
- Consumers' Checkbook: Consumers' Guide to Top Doctors-Their Guide to Top Doctors surveyed 340,000 doctors in the U.S. to determine who other doctors would select to care for a family member or friend.
- HealthCare Credentials Check- Patients can search for doctors for free, but individual physician reports about credentials cost $7.95 (or $11.95 for unlimited access to reports for a day).
Resources collected June 2013
|Finding a New Doctor|
Advice on what to look for in a new doctor, how to locate one (whether or not you have insurance), and links to trusted physician review websites.
|How to Choose a Hospital|
Not all hospitals are created equal. Here you’ll find popular ratings websites to help you compare before you go and important information about patient safety.
|Deciding When to Seek Care|
Not sure if you need a doctor? Here’s advice about alternatives, including urgent care and retail clinics and information about yearly checkups.
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