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Handbook for Mortals : Talking With Your Doctor

Choosing a doctor

If you are looking for a new doctor, decide what qualities are important to you. Ask family members, friends, and other health care professionals for the names of doctors they recommend. Then find out the answers to some important questions.

Is the doctor accepting new patients?

Is the doctor in a group practice?

What days and times does the doctor see patients?

How far in advance do I have to make appointments?

How fast can I be seen if something happens that scares me? Who will likely see me then?

Can the office do simple urine and blood tests?

Who takes care of patients after hours or when my doctor is away?

Is the office located close enough to be a comfortable trip?

Which hospital does the doctor admit patients to?

Does the doctor see patients at home? In nursing homes? In hospice?

Does the doctor accept my insurance or health plan?

Call the office of each doctor you are considering, tell them that you are looking for a new doctor, and ask the questions you choose. Also, ask if the doctor has introductory visits available for people who want to meet before deciding on a doctor. If so, ask what you should bring with you to such a meeting and what the fee will be. When you visit a doctor's office for the first time, don 't wait until you meet the doctor to begin forming your impressions. Take note of how attentive the office staff is to patients, how long you and other patients wait, how long the phone rings before it is answered, how organized everyone seems to be, and how easy it appears to be to arrange payment and follow-up appointments. Also, pay attention to see if other patients' personal information is handled quietly or is discussed loudly enough for everyone to know why they called. A beautiful waiting room is nice, but it can 't substitute for polite, professional care from the staff.

(Adapted from "Talking with Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People," by the National Institute on Aging)

To learn more about the book "Handbook for Mortals" click here.