How do I find a good gynecologist?
I always ask new patients, “How did you find me?” The answers I get are fascinating. Some patients see me because their friend is my patient and they were told I am a good doctor. Others are referred to me by their primary care providers or other specialists. Some patients picked my name out of a register of providers in their insurance network. Still others found me on the internet.
It all seems so random. There are so many doctors out there and so many ways to pick from among them. But (besides getting a recommendation from a doctor, friend, or family member you trust) what’s the best way to pick a doctor? And once you’ve selected one, how can you check-up on the person who does your check-ups?
There are certain things I look for when choosing a doctor. For one thing, I’d like somebody who takes my health insurance. If you don’t have coverage for out-of-network providers, it can be a burden to pay “out-of-pocket” for health services. (It may be worth paying extra to see a doctor with special training or qualifications, but that depends on your healthcare needs and your ability to cover the cost.)
The website for your health insurance company probably lists covered providers in a database that can be searched by specialty and location. Always call the doctor’s office to find out whether a provider is in your network (or will accept your out-of-network benefits). Online lists may be out of date and include providers who are no longer in network and may not include providers who have joined more recently.
If you don’t have health insurance, you can call a doctor’s office to inquire about his or her fees before the visit. Also ask about additional fees for lab work or pathology (which can be important if you are having testing for sexually transmitted diseases, are having a Pap smear, or need a biopsy). Otherwise you may be surprised by the amount you are charged at check-out or by mail a few weeks later.
Once you have selected a few possible providers, you’ll want to find out a little more information about them. Many providers have a website for their practice or have a bio posted on a hospital website. This information may help you learn where the doctor went to college and medical school. You can also find out where he or she completed residency (and in which specialty), and where any fellowship or advanced training took place.
The government is also checking up on your doctor. This is done through a process through which physicians must apply for and maintain a license to practice medicine in a given state. Physicians submit information to the state medical board who evaluate the adequacy of a physician’s training. They also seek to know whether a physician has been convicted of a crime, and whether he or she is fit (physically, mentally) to practice.
Most physicians will make their state license readily available, often displaying it in their office. The medical board of most states also offer a site online where you can look up a physician by name. The American Medical Association has a site where you can find a link to your state medical board. Physicians can (and often do) hold licenses in multiple states.
Whatever you do, make sure your doctor makes you comfortable at the time of your visit. A positive relationship with your doctor is key to making good health decisions!