Medical history. Surgical history. Lists of medications and diagnoses. Family medical history. Height, weight, age. Address, phone number, emergency contact person. Insurance cards, co-pays, deductibles.
Every time you visit a doctor, you are completing or updating their forms. Doctors and their practice know nearly everything about you, but what do you know about them?
News flash! You can and should interview your care providers.
There are many ways to learn about a physician and their practice before you become their patient. It is absolutely acceptable to research and interview any care provider, especially someone who will be your primary provider or “care team leader.” Taking time to interview and find the best provider for you, before a medical crisis, will ensure an efficient chain of responsibility and hopefully a positive and quick resolution.
If you have not registered for your insurance provider’s portal, please do so now. Do a web search for your insurance plan, or check the back of your insurance card for their website.
How do I find a doctor?
- Log into your insurance company’s portal. Most of these websites have a “Find a Doctor” link on the homepage. Pros: This will provide a list of physicians by speciality which are included on your insurance plan. Cons: It could be a lengthy list.
- Do a web search for physicians in your area. For example: internal medicine physician in las vegas nevada. Pros: It will be easier to navigate to a physician (or group practice) website. Cons: You need to cross-reference your findings with the list of providers in your insurance portal.
- Ask family and friends for recommendations based on their experiences. Pros: You will get all sorts of stories. Cons: These stories reflect their experiences and may not line up with what you need.
How do I find the right doctor?
Finding the right doctor is a little more involved than just finding a doctor. Remember to be polite, say thank you, and listen to your gut. There is power in stating your needs within this important relationship, and believe it or not, many practitioners will greatly appreciate the open, honest conversation.
WHO do I talk to?
Office managers, practice managers, nursing managers, physician assistants, oh my! In short, you want to talk to a person who will answer your questions. Ideally, this should be a person within the practice’s leadership, as they will be able to provide more reliable information. Review the physician’s website, do a web search, or simply call the practice to find the right person.
WHAT do I say?
While much of this discussion is specific to your medical needs, there are some things you should know about your provider and their practice.
The Medical Practice
- Who else do I need to know in your practice? (office manager, insurance manager, nurse manager, etc)
- Who does what? (referral coordinators, schedulers, nursing assistants for medication refills)
- What are your emergency and after-hour protocols? Special phone number? On-call physician?
- How far in advance is your next appointment for new patients? Existing patients?
- How do your patients communicate with you? Patient portal? Email? Phone call? What is your policy on response times?
- Do you have experience with my specific medical condition?
- How do you work with other patients who have chronic illness?
- How do you work with other physicians/specialties in our area? Collaborative approach? Referral network? Medical societies?
- What is your communication style?
- Are you able and willing to be my care team leader?
- Are you willing to work with my patient advocate in addition to my family support system?
WHEN do I ask?
The best time to ask your questions is before you choose a care provider. Having the right information and a good relationship is going to pay off down the road.
If you are already working with a provider, you can ask questions during your next appointment, electronically via your patient portal, or even ask to talk to the office/nurse manager on your way out of the office.
WHERE do I communicate?
For most patients, the method in which they communicate with their care team has to do with ease. Do you prefer a phone call? In-person chats? The patient portal messaging system? Whichever way you choose, make sure to document contact attempts and responses, pay attention to how long it takes to receive a response, and always say thanks.
WHY am I doing this?!
It’s a lot of work, yes. But remember! Planning ahead will save you time, money, and energy when you need the team to act fast. You are also building a trusting and honest relationship with your provider team, and there is nothing more powerful than that!
I need help
Do you need help finding or interviewing your care team? A+J Patient Advocacy can help! Use the button on our homepage to “schedule time with us.”
Your Friendly Advocate