AMARILLO – Shopping around for the best price and service is a hallmark characteristic of American consumers, whether it’s for a house or car or laundry detergent.
However, many people never consider the importance of shopping for the right doctor, said Andrew B. Crocker, Texas Cooperative Extension gerontology health specialist.
Choosing a health provider may be difficult for some, he said.
“No matter if you are looking to change your current provider or if you are looking for a health provider for the first time, there are several things you should keep in mind,” Crocker said.
First, is a physician the best choice? Qualified nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants may be the best source for health care, he said.
Board certification, health insurance acceptance and office location are other considerations.
While many providers accept Medicare and Medicaid, they may do so at different amounts, affecting out-of-pocket pay, Crocker said. Check to see what costs may be before the visit.
“If you have private insurance, check with the insurance company to see if they will pay for you to see a certain health provider,” he said. “Also check with the health provider’s office to make sure that he or she will accept your insurance.”
Location concerns to consider include: is it close to home, a hospital, a pharmacy, or on a busy street that could cause travel problems to and from office visits?
After deciding to try a health provider, be sure he or she has a good bedside manner and communication style, Crocker advised. Make sure he or she will answer questions fully and understandably.
Find out if:
– Health instructions can be provided in writing?
– A friend or family member can come along?
– Someone in the office is “on call” 24 hours per day?
When choosing a new health provider, ask others’ opinions of him or her, Crocker said.
“Talking with other people about their interaction with a health provider may give you some insight into what your experience with him or her may be,” he said.
In Texas, a physician’s record can be checked through the Texas Medical Board. As the licensing organization for physicians and physician’s assistants, it provides information about schooling, licensing, complaints and sanctions or suspension.
The board maintains this information through its Web site: http://www.tsbme.state.tx.us . Complaints may be filed by calling (800) 248-4062.
“Ensuring quality health care from a quality health provider may be one of the most important decisions that you make,” Crocker said. “After all, good health is one of the keys to successful aging! It’s your choice make it a good one.”
For more information and more tips on choosing a new health provider, the National Institute on Aging has a publication entitled “Choosing a Doctor” that may be accessed on-line at http://www.niapublications.org/engagepages/choose.asp .