Choosing a primary care doctor is one of the most important health decisions you’ll make. And, thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act, there are more people with health insurance & more people than ever, searching for a physician they can call their own. But, it’s hard to find reliable, easy-to-understand information about specific doctors or practices. You can search Google, check out physician reviews on sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List, but do you really want to find a doctor the same way you do a restaurant or plumber? I hope not.

Many patients find doctors thru recommendations from other health care professionals, or from friends or family. But, what is good for them may not be good for you. Before you make a new appointment, here are some other things to consider:
  • Check your insurance: Use your insurer’s directory or search on its website for doctors in your network. Because doctors often add or drop plans, call the office to verify that the doctor still accepts your insurance.
  • Consider hospital affiliation: Your choice of doctor can determine which hospital you go to, if needed, so find out where the doctor has admitting privileges. Then use consumer reports hospital ratings to see how that facility compares with other hospitals in your area.
  • Look for board certification: Being certified through the American Board of Medical Specialties means a doctor has earned a medical degree from a qualified medical school, completed three to seven years of accredited residency training, is licensed by a state medical board, and has passed one or more exams administered by a member of the ABMS. To maintain the certification, a doctor is expected to participate in continuing education. To see whether a doctor is certified, go to certificationmatters.org.
  • Watch out for red flags: They include malpractice claims and disciplinary actions. Does your doctor carry malpractice insurance?  Some states do not require physicians to purchase malpractice insurance like Florida. If it is not posted on the wall in the 0ffice you should inquire. Even good doctors can get sued once or twice, but you certainly don’t want someone who has had a lot of malpractice claims. Common reasons for being disciplined include substance abuse and inappropriate sexual behavior, though it can be hard to know exactly why a doctor was sanctioned. Most states let doctors continue prac­tice while they receive treatment.
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