Moving to a new city? Make finding a new doctor a top priority. While it’s often easy to postpone finding new health care providers until you really need them, it’s important that you find them (and get to know them) before you experience health issues. After all, if you are struck by an unforeseen illness in a new city, having an established doctor will expedite your treatment and recovery. If you are not an established patient, you may have to wait weeks or months for a first-time appointment. For these reasons, assembling the right team of health care professionals is crucial to your future well-being. If you’re not sure how to find a primary care doctor in your new city, we can help. Here’s what to consider before finding a new doctor and how to locate one near you.
What to consider before finding a new doctor
- The type of doctor needed – Before making an appointment with a doctor, you should determine the kind of physician you need. For the most part, everyone needs a primary care doctor. This doctor is your main point of contact for all healthcare needs and should be able to refer to you to specialists. If you need a specialist, we recommend asking your primary care for recommendations and/or using our tips below to help find the right doctor for you.
- Location – Do you want a doctor with an office located near your home? How about one located near your office? Do you want the “best” doctor no matter the location? Bottomline: decide how important the location of a doctor’s office is to you.
- Hospital versus small practice – Evaluate the pros and cons of having a doctor in a large hospital system versus one in a small private practice. Many patients (particularly those with chronic illnesses) prefer the convenience that a doctor in a large hospital offers. One major benefit to a hospital is having all medical equipment and medical departments under one roof, giving the patient easy access to testing and specialty doctors. However, many patients still opt for doctors who work in small medical practices. These smaller practices tend to emphasize personal, one-on-one attention. Whatever you decide, make sure to research both options beforehand.
- Personal preferences – Do you prefer a male or female doctor? Is the age of the doctor important to you? Do you want a doctor who is older and more experienced? How about one who’s up to speed on the latest and greatest experimental studies? Decide what kind of doctor will make you most comfortable and seek that person out.
How to find a primary care doctor
- Get a recommendation from your former primary care doctor
The easiest way to find a new primary care doctor is to simply ask your former doctor for recommendations. If moving to a new city, your doctor may have contacts or know of well-regarded doctors in the area who can offer their opinions on the matter. Before you move, make sure to request a final appointment with your primary care doctor. Let them know you are moving and ask their advice for finding qualified doctors in your new city.
- Find health care providers through your insurance provider
Before making an appointment with a new doctor, you’ll need to make sure that the health care provider is covered by your health insurance and is considered “in-network.” An in-network provider is a doctor who is covered by your current health insurance plan. An out of network provider is a doctor who is not covered by your health insurance. Using an out of network doctor will result in you paying for the coverage out of pocket (and trust us, it won’t be cheap!). To ensure that you choose a new, in-network doctor, contact your health insurance company and request a list of local doctors covered by your plan. Many health care companies provide this service online. For instance, Blue Cross Blue Shield includes a “Find a Doctor” search tab on their homepage, where patients can search for in-network primary care doctors, as well as nearby urgent care facilities that will accept their insurance.
- Use the American Medical Association’s DoctorFinder tool
Patients can search the American Medical Association’s DoctorFinder tool to locate licensed physicians near them. This group is the largest association of medical doctors and medical students in the country. The association’s DoctorFinder tool provides information on nearly every licensed physician in the country. According to the tool, patients can also find office hours, accepted insurance providers, educational history and other helpful information about all AMA doctors.
- Search the U.S. News Doctor Finder
Whether it be hospitals or specialty procedures, U.S. News provides plenty of rankings and information about the best health care providers in the country. In addition, the rankings publisher offers patients their own Doctor Finder tool. All you have to do is enter your zip code and the specialty that you’re looking for. From there, U.S. News will take you to a list of doctors in your area. Users can sort and filter the doctors by their personal preferences.
- Ask new friends, neighbors and coworkers
Oftentimes, word of mouth recommendations are an excellent way to find a new doctor. So ask the locals. Reach out to friends or family in the area, as well as new neighbors and coworkers. Chances are, you should be able to find more than one recommendation. Just make sure to thoroughly research the doctor’s education and reviews to assess whether or not the physician is suited to your needs.
Questions to ask when booking an appointment with a new doctor
- What kind of patient does this doctor typically see?
- Does the office have an online portal where I can access my records and tests?
- Do they have experience treating patients with my condition?
- Are medical labs and tests conducted in the doctor’s office or will I need to travel elsewhere to have these done?
- How long do patients typically wait to see the doctor once they arrive at the office?
- Do I need to arrive early to fill out paperwork?
- Can you give me directions to the office, as well as any parking information I may need?
- How long will I be able to meet with the doctor?
- Does the doctor have a nurse practitioner who I can meet with when he/she isn’t available?
- What are the office hours?