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How to Choose the Best Doctor for You

Your primary care physician will be your most important resource in your ongoing health care as you get older. Whether you’re currently healthy and looking to stay that way, or if you’re managing any of several chronic health conditions that impact your life, having a knowledgeable doctor that you can trust and communicate well with is extremely important. But knowing how to choose the doctor that’s right for you can be a confusing process, so having a plan in place to help you make the right decision when doing so is crucial. 

Having a regular doctor is extremely important. Your doctor will get to know you as a person and will understand what your health is like, and will be able to determine a treatment plan that works best for you as a person, and not just as a collection of test results and health metrics. They will also be able to help you make medical decisions in the event of an issue with the potential to impact your future. If you don’t feel like you quite fit with your current doctor, or you don’t have one at the moment, the time to start looking for a new one to manage your health care is right now. Many people, especially older ones from a generation where doctors were authorities not to be questioned, might be reluctant to leave their current doctor’s practice, for worry of hurting their feelings. But doctors know as well as anyone else that having the right partner for your continuing care is important, and as professionals, won’t be angry or hurt about someone leaving their care.

The first step in finding the right doctor for you is deciding what it is you need in a doctor. Do you need one fluent in your language, one associated with a specific hospital, one the same gender as you, whatever it is you need in a doctor, make that decision. This will allow you to narrow the field down right away. Once you have the list of all your “dream qualities” in a doctor assembled, a good idea as well is to go back through and decide how important each one is. Surely, some will be non-negotiable, and others are things that would be nice to have, but not necessarily critical. This will allow you to make compromises as necessary if no doctor matches all criteria.

The next step is finding doctors that meet your qualifications. Your health plan might have a list of doctors they cover, meaning you just have to choose from there, or you might seek recommendations from friends and colleagues about their experiences with their doctors. In either case, this part is simple.

Now it’s time to start talking to prospective doctors. Ask them things like if they have older patients, and bring up any concerns specific to yourself. A good doctor will listen to you attentively, give you a chance to ask questions, and discuss any concerns you may have thoroughly. Once you’ve made your decision, your first visit will involve discussing previous care and prior health history, so make sure to bring that along with you.