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  • Writer's pictureJim Miller

Savvy Senior ~ How to find a good doctor



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Dear Savvy Senior,


Can you recommend some good resources to help me locate some quality doctors in my area? I’m looking for an orthopedic doctor for my 77-year-old mother and a new internist for me, since my doctor retired last year.


Searching Susan


Dear Susan,

Finding and researching doctors is a lot easier than it used to be. Today, there are variety of websites you can turn to that provide databases of U.S. doctors, their professional medical histories, and ratings and reviews from past patients on a number of criteria. Here are some good sites to help you get started, along with a few additional tips that can help you find the right doctors.


Searching Tips: To help you locate some good doctors in your area, a good first step is to get referrals from trusted friends, along with any doctors, nurses or other healthcare professionals you know.


You also need to check your insurance provider. Call your insurer for a list of approved doctors or ask whether the doctor you’re considering is in-network.


If your mother is enrolled in original Medicare, you can use the care compare tool at Medicare.gov/care-compare – click on “Doctors & Clinicians.” This will let you find doctors by name, medical specialty or by geographic location that accept original Medicare. If she’s enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, call or visit the plan website to get a list of approved candidates.


Once you find a few doctors, you need to call their office to verify that they still accept your insurance, and if they are accepting new patients.


You should also 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 some hospital ratings services like Medicare.gov/care-compare (click on “Hospitals”) to see how it compares with other hospitals in the area.


Researching Doctors: After you find a few doctors you’re interested in, there are various websites you can consult, to help you evaluate them. For example, the Federation of State Medical Boards offers a tool at DocInfo.org that will let you find out doctor’s board certifications, education, states with active licenses, and whether or not a physician has been disciplined by a state medical board.


The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS Data) is also a good source for researching doctors. For example, it will help you find out how many times a doctor did a particular procedure and what they charge for it – go to Data.CMS.gov/tools and click on “Medicare Physician & Other Practitioner Look-up Tool.” And to learn about the financial relationship that doctors have with drug and medical device companies, visit OpenPaymentsData.CMS.gov.


Some other good sites for finding and researching healthcare professionals include Healthgrades (healthgrades.com) and Vitals (vitals.com).


Both sites provide substantial doctor’s information on education and training, hospital affiliations, board certification, awards and recognitions, professional misconduct, disciplinary action, office locations and accepted insurance plans.


They also offer 5-star ratings scales from past patients on issues such as communication and listening skills, wait time, time spent with the patient, office friendliness and more. But be aware that while physician rating websites can be helpful, they can also be misleading and unreliable.


Jim Miller is the creator of Savvy Senior, a syndicated information column for older Americans and their families that is published in more than 400 newspapers and magazines nationwide. Jim is also a regular contributor on NBC’s “Today” show and is the author of The Savvy Senior, The Ultimate Guide to Health, Family and Finances for Senior Citizens (Hyperion). Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org.

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