Questions to Ask When Researching a New Doctor

When looking for a new doctor, there are some questions that immediately come to mind – questions about the insurance accepted, location, hours, bedside manner, whether a referral is needed, and the average wait time, to name just a few. Luckily, the answers to these questions (and more) are all answered for every doctor in America on Vitals. But, there are other important questions you may not have thought of that you should answer ahead of choosing a new physician.

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Knowing what you’re looking for ahead of time will help you in your doctor search.

Before booking that appointment, think about what’s important to you and how your doctor measures up against the following criteria:

Is the doctor an M.D. or D.O. and what’s the difference?
While both have undergone the same medical training and have met the same licensing requirements, a D.O., or Doctor of Osteopathy, takes a more holistic approach to medicine and has undertaken more study of the musculoskeletal system than an M.D., or Doctor of Medicine. If you are more interested in preventative care and open to alternative treatments, a D.O. might be a good option for you.

How much time does the doctor spend with patients, on average?
The amount of time a doctor spends with a patient varies from person to person, but both primary care doctors and specialists average less than 20 minutes of face-to-face time with their patients during an office visit. Knowing the answer to this question for a particular doctor can give you insight into what type of clinician he/she might be.

With which local hospitals is the doctor affiliated?
If you were to undergo a surgical procedure, your primacy care doctor would only be able to monitor and examine you alongside your surgeon in a hospital with which he/she is affiliated. In turn, when choosing a specialist for a procedure to be performed in a hospital, you’ll want to choose a specialist who is affiliated with a hospital that you know and trust. While there may be instances in which you prefer to have your choice of hospital over the ability to be cared for by the doctor of your choice, it’s important to know a doctor’s affiliations, so you’re aware of your options. Remember, hospitals receive grades based on the quality of outcomes, which is often a direct reflection of the pool of doctors affiliated with that hospital.

Does the doctor have malpractice claims or sanctions?
Malpractice suits are filed and handled by the civil courts and generally deal with actions that do not follow accepted standards of practice by the medical community. The filing of the suit does not necessarily mean that the doctor was negligent or did not follow the proper standards of care.

Sanctions, however, are imposed on a doctor by the medical licensing body of a state when they determine that a doctor has caused harm as a result of negligence, misconduct or impairment.

If you find that sanctions or a string of malpractice allegations have been filed against your doctor, find out more about the claims by contacting your state licensing board or the Federation of State Medical Boards. Keep in mind that there is no federal licensing body, so if a doctor has been sanctioned in one state, he/she may be able to practice in another.

With whom will I spend most of my time during the appointment (doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner and/or physician’s assistant)?
Some doctors have nurses, nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants in their practice to help handle the volume of minor medical issues or assess a patient’s need to see the doctor. If the doctor you are researching has these types of professionals on staff, ask what their roles are within the practice to determine whether you’ll spend a satisfactory amount of time with the doctor.

For more information on Finding Dr. Right, download the Vitals eBook.