Maybe you’re new to Richmond. Maybe you’re moving across the river. Maybe your doctor is retiring. Or maybe your doctor-patient relationship just isn’t working out.
Either way, you’ll need to find a new doctor. And given how important your health is, you’ll want him or her to be Dr. Right – and that will take some doing:
1. First, get a copy of your medical records. Thanks to new regulations taking effect this year, you should have no problem getting them either on paper or digitally. If you’re making a geographical move, make sure to also get the consultation notes from the specialists you’ve been seeing. Your primary care physician may already have them, but if not you’ll have to contact the specialists’ offices.
2. Get your prescriptions renewed, so they won’t run out while you conduct your new-doctor search.
3. Make a list of what’s right and what’s wrong with your current health relationship. That way, you’ll have a clear picture of what to look for – and what to avoid.
4. Check your Medicare coverage. If you’re in a Medicare HMO, PPO, or advantage plan, their directory and/or website will list PCPs and specialists, so you can find new doctors that are in both the system and your neighborhood. If you’re enrolled in traditional Medicare, then the first question you should ask in Step 7 below is whether the practice takes Medicare payments.
5. Get names. If you need a new specialist, ask your PCP for recommendations. If you need a new PCP, ask friends, relatives and neighbors for their recommendations. In addition to names and contact information, ask about how the doctor does with the pluses and minuses you listed in Step 3 above.
6. Do due diligence. Check out the names you got. Google “(doctor’s name) reviews." Read the reviews on healthgrades.com, whose website claims to have “Profiles for Every Doctor in America.” You can search by name, specialty, your health condition(s), and location. Review doctors’ degrees, training, board certifications, and hospital admitting privileges at the American Medical Association’s Doctor Finder website. Finally, check the doctors you’ve found on the Federation of State Medical Boards’ docinfo.com website, which records any disciplinary actions against practitioners.
7. Call the doctor’s office. See how helpful, courteous, and professional the staff is. Whether the practice accepts traditional Medicare payments. How many days or weeks you have to wait to see the doctor. Whether the doctor does telehealth, and whether there’s a walk-in service for acute problems. Particularly for specialists, ask to see a copy of the doctor’s CV (curriculum vitae, which is Latin for resume); that will tell you which continuing education and training he or she has been taking to keep medically current.
8. Make an appointment and use it as a test run. Was the office clean and professional? The staff courteous? Was the appointment on schedule, or did you have to wait? If so, how long? After getting weighed and having your blood pressure taken, how long did you have to wait in an examining room before the doctor arrived? How did the doctor respond to your comments and questions? By actively listening? Or by interrupting or giving you unresponsive responses? How well does the doctor’s communication style mesh with yours? And most important, did the doctor view you as a person with your own values, needs, preferred way of living, and desire for independence – or as just a set of conditions, symptoms and protocols?
That last point may be the most important of all. No two people – even people of the same age and in the same physical condition – are identical. Everyone has his or her own physical, emotional, cognitive, psychosocial, and environmental needs. Good doctors recognize this and factor it into their patient care. At Senior Insights, it’s been our guiding principle.
That’s why our holistic, coordinated senior care management plans always start with a thorough three-part needs assessment to determine what specific services a client needs. In these assessments, we talk not only with clients, but also their families and caregivers.
So please contact us to learn more about senior care designed to meet your individual needs and preserve your independence.