Your doctor will be your partner in care, so it is important
to choose carefully from the doctors available to you. In some
managed care plans, you will generally be limited to choosing
from only certain doctors; in other plans, some doctors may be
"preferred," which means they are part of a network
and you will pay less if you use them. Ask your plan for a list
or directory of providers. The plan may also offer other help
You can ask doctors you know, medical societies, friends, family,
and coworkers to recommend doctors. You may also contact hospitals
and referral services about doctors in your area.
Once you have the names of doctors who interest you, make sure
they are accepting new patients. Here's how to check doctors out:
- Ask plans and medical offices for information on their doctors'
training and experience.
- Look up basic information about doctors in the Directory of
Medical Specialists, available at your local library. This reference
has up-to-date professional and biographic information on about
400,000 practicing physicians.
- Use "AMA Physician Select," which is the American
Medical Association's free service on the Internet for
information about physicians.
You may also want to find out:
- Is the doctor board certified? Although all doctors must
be licensed to practice medicine, some also are board certified.
This means the doctor has completed several years of training
in a specialty and passed an exam. Call the American Board of
Medical Specialties at 800-776-2378 for more information.
- Have complaints been registered or disciplinary actions taken
against the doctor? To find out, call your State Medical Licensing
Board. Ask Directory Assistance for the phone number.
- Have complaints been registered with your State department
of insurance? (Not all departments of insurance accept complaints.)
Ask Directory Assistance for the phone number.
Once you have narrowed your search to a few doctors, you may want
to set up "get acquainted" appointments with them. Ask
what charge there might be for these visits, if any. Such appointments
give you a chance to interview the doctors-for example, to find
out if they have much experience with any health conditions you