October is open enrollment, and for many of you that means selecting a new health plan and doctor. Here are 5 things you need to know before selecting the right doctor for you and your family.
October is open enrollment for many people looking for healthcare. That means selecting a health plan and a doctor if your health insurance is changing. It’s frustrating to be forced to start from scratch again. You may have already bonded with your current doctor who knows your health and history well.
So how do you start over? There is seemingly an endless sea of doctors to choose from—how can you make the very best choice? Selecting a physician is a very personal process. There are numerous reasons why you may or may not connect with a doctor. The relationship is really like many other relationships, and it requires great trust. Let’s talk about some of the things you may want to consider when selecting a physician.
5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Doctor
- Search the medical group’s website
- Consider the gender of your physician
- Avoid internet ratings
- Language considerations
- Never judge a book by its cover
When you first join a health plan, they may send you a list of doctors within their network. If not mailed or electronically sent to you upon joining, you can use their website (doctor lists are often easily searchable there) or call them to mail you a copy of their provider booklet.
If you want to save on costs, I’d start here with an in-network physician. Some plans will allow you to still see your out-of-network doctor, but at a higher cost. If you have an HMO, however, they most likely will not provide that option. If you’re confused about the differences between PPO’s, EPO’s, and HMO’s, you’re not the only one—make sure to learn how to choose between the three types of health plans.
While perusing your in-network provider list, consider the following:
Search the medical group’s website
The benefit of online lists is that some plans will list their physician profiles in more detail. For instance, mine will reveal that I love sci-fi movies, have an extra focus on women’s health and pediatrics, and host a medical podcast. Some physicians will even have a video snippet on their profile to view, their credentials may be listed in detail, etc. In this way, you can best find a physician that matches your interests. A connection is always helpful in making you feel more comfortable at the doctor’s office.
Do you prefer a female or male physician?
This will narrow down your search by about 50%. Female patients often search for female doctors, and many of my patients will tell me this. Perhaps they feel more of a connection with a female physician, or perhaps they’d neglect their pap smear otherwise. Or perhaps they grew up with six brothers, and have a better connection with a male physician.
On the other hand, I’ve also had male patients reveal that they feel most comfortable with females, and male patients who tell me they don’t feel as comfortable with a female physician when discussing their most personal topics, such as erectile dysfunction or low libido.
The truth is, however, almost all of us doctors have patients from all spectrums. And there’s nothing we haven’t heard before. No medical topic makes the physician feel uncomfortable. But how you feel as a patient is the key. So if this makes a difference in how comfortable you feel at the doctor’s office, then it may be a consideration.