Steps to Picking and Contacting a Medical Professional
Types of Medical Professions
1) Decide What You Want and Need in a Doctor
2) Make a List of Doctors
3) Check on Quality
4) Contact the Doctors' Offices
5) Talking with Your Doctor
Types of Medical Professions
Primary care doctors are specially trained to serve as your main doctor over the
long term. They provide your medical and health care, help you stay
healthy, and help to manage your care. Your primary care doctor can
refer you to specialists.
Specialists are doctors who treat only certain parts of the
body, conditions, or age groups.
Things to look for in a doctor:
- Is rated to give quality care.
- Has the training and background that meet your needs.
- Takes steps to prevent illness-for example, talks to you about
- Has privileges at the hospital of your choice.
- Is part of your health plan, unless you can you afford to pay
- Encourages you to ask questions.
- Listens to you.
- Explains things clearly.
- Treats you with respect.
Internists and family physicians are the two largest groups of primary
care doctors for adults. Many women see obstetricians/gynecologists
for some or all of their primary care needs.
Pediatricians and family
practitioners are primary care doctors for many children.
Physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse
midwives are trained to deliver many aspects of primary care.
Physician assistants must practice in partnership with doctors. Nurse
practitioners and certified nurse midwives can work independently in
some States, but not others.
Doctors and Health Plans
If you already are in a health plan, your choices may be limited to
doctors who participate in the plan. But if you have a choice of
plans, you may want to first think about which doctor(s) you would
like to use. Then, you may be able to choose a plan that has your
choice of doctor(s).
Decide What You Want and Need in a Doctor
A medical professional should be:
- Highly rated by a reliable consumer or other group that
does not have something to gain from the ratings
- Needs to have experience with my condition (in our case red poop and digestive problems).
- Have privileges (is permitted to practice) at the hospital of my choice.
- Must be part of my health plan.
Make a List of Doctors
- If you are in a managed care plan, check the plan's list of doctors first.
- Ask the health professionals you know to recommend you a doctor.
- Check the Physician Select service of the Web site of the
American Medical Association.
- Call a doctor referral service at a hospital. But keep in mind
that these services usually refer you to any of the doctors on the
staff of that hospital.
- Some local medical societies offer lists of doctors who are members but it is difficult to tell the quality if the services.
- Ask family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
Check on Quality
Contact the Doctors' Offices
When you have found a few names of doctors you might want to try, call
their offices. The first thing to find out is whether the doctor is
covered by your health plan and is taking new patients. If the doctor
is not covered by your plan, are you prepared to pay the extra costs?
Here are some things to find out from office staff:
- Which hospitals does the doctor use?
- What are the office hours of the doctor and the staff?
- Does the doctor or someone else in the office speak the language that I am most comfortable speaking?
- How many other doctors "cover" for the doctor when he or she is not available? Who are they?
- How long does it usually take to get a routine appointment?
- What happens if I need to cancel an appointment? Will I have to pay for it anyway?
- Does the office send appointment reminders?
- What do I do if I need urgent care or have an emergency?
- Does the doctor give advice over the phone for common medical problems?
When you finally visit the doctor, pay attention to how well the doctor did the following things:
- Give me a chance to ask questions?
- Really listen to my questions?
- Answer in terms I understood?
- Show respect for me?
- Ask me questions?
- Make me feel comfortable?
- Address the health problem(s) I came with?
- Ask me my preferences about different kinds of treatments?
- Spend enough time with me?
Trust your own reactions when deciding whether this doctor is the
right one for you. But you also may want to give the relationship some
time to develop. It takes more than one visit for you and your doctor
to get to know each other.
Talking with Your Doctor
Research has shown that patients who have a good relationship with
their doctors tend to be more satisfied with their care-and to have
better results. Here are some tips to help you and your doctor become
Give information. Don't wait to be asked!
- Be proactive in telling your doctor what you think is important that he or she needs to know.
- It is important to tell your doctor personal information even if it makes you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable.
- Bring an up-to-date "health history" list with you.
- Bring a list of any chemical or natural medicines and treatments you are taking. Talk about any allergies or reactions you have had to your medicines.
- Bring other medical information, such as x-ray films, test results, and medical records.
Take information home.
- Ask questions. If you don't, your doctor may think you understand everything that was said.
- Write down your questions before your visit.
- You might want to bring someone along to help you ask questions, understand and remember the answers.
- Don't be afraid of asking for a second explanation if there was something you did not understand.
- Take notes.
- Some doctors do not mind if you bring a tape recorder to help you remember things. But always ask first.
- Don't be afraid to let your doctor know if you need more time.
Once you leave the doctor's office, follow up.
- Ask for written instructions.
- Ask how you can get additional information like brochures or videos
- If you have questions, call.
- If your symptoms get worse, or if you have problems with your medicine, call.
- If you had tests and do not hear from your doctor, do not assume you will always be called. Call for your test results.