Tell Us: How Do You Choose A Doctor?

We just saw a piece on CNN about how to choose a doctor in which they suggested that people make a bunch of appointments for “a hangnail” and shop around.

“Interview some doctors. Go to them for like, a hangnail or something, and see how they deal with it. Try a couple out. You know, you wouldn’t marry the first person you met, right? So you wouldn’t want to marry the first doctor you met,” said CNN’s Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

This sounds like, um, expensive advice Liz—and the marriage metaphor is icky.

Can you do better than CNN? Leave some advice in the comments and we’ll post the best submissions. Thanks!

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. UpsetPanda says:

    I wish I could choose doctors who look like Hugh Laurie. Mmm.

  2. Conrad says:

    I call my father, and rarely have to go to a doctor.

  3. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    Typically, it’s close to work and in my insurer’s plan.

    I love it when I go to a new doctor, and they ask with all eager anticipation, “So, how did you choose me?” expecting me to say something like, “Oh, my friend says you are wonderful…”. When I tell them how I picked them, they look very sad.

  4. i just pick the closest one that my insurance plan covers. i’ve been extremely lucky and have had excellent physicians. dentists too!

  5. Murph1908 says:

    Insurance isn’t expensive enough, but now CNN is telling people to make bogus appointments, in which the insurance company will be charged the full $150 or whatever?

    There must be a better way.

  6. xavi1337 says:

    I recently chose a new doctor, and I think I had a good process.

    1. Find local doctors covered by my insurance
    2. Go to Library and search journal publications of doctors
    3. Select doctor who publishes the most or in highest rated journals.
    4. Consider in publications the subject. If you have a lot of knee problems, find someone who publishes on this topic.

    If you are assertive then there is not much of a worry about being rushed through an appointment. Come prepared with questions and I doubt the doctor will leave without answering them. The better you understand your own conditions the better your doctor visits will be.

  7. MaliBoo Radley says:

    @UpsetPanda:

    That was what I was thinking. I wouldn’t mind a doctor who looked like that one bit.

    But I must say I choose a doctor based on my health coverage and proximity to my home.

    However, I did add a third piece of criteria to the choosing of my most recent doctor: Name. My new doctor is called Dr. Kavorkian. Slightly differently spelling than the famous Dr. Jack Kervorkian, but still sounds pretty hilarious.

  8. DrGirlfriend says:

    That advice is so impractical.

    A better way is to ask people you know if they would recommend their doctors. If that doesn’t work, I have to admit that my next step is to just pick an area close to my home or work, make sure the doc is in my insurance network, and see whomever is first available.

  9. akalish says:

    Recommendations, recommendations, recommendations. But since I’d rather not have the same doctor as a friend or relative (something about being too close for comfort), I look for “best-of” ratings in local rags. Here in NY, New York Magazine’s annual “Best-of” issue is a fantastic place to find virtually anything, and they also have an issue rating all types of doctors.

  10. bohemian says:

    With copays, coinsurance and deductibles this could get really expensive. Even worse if your shopping for a specialist.

    I have been leaning more toward female doctors after having two male doctors completely blow off complaints I had that later ended up being major problems. I do have a couple of male specialists that I still use but they listen and take what you tell them seriously and are good at what they do.

    So I guess it boils down to a doctor that listens and knows what the heck they are doing.

  11. arch05 says:

    Graduation date, University attended, Last name, and if English is their primary language.

  12. privatejoker75 says:

    i wait until i’m sick, and then i call until i find one that will see me

  13. illusionmajik says:

    I usually go to “RateMD.com”
    You choose what state you’re searching for and it brings up a list.
    You can sort stuff by specialty or by last name.
    There’s comments by patients as to what their experiences were like.

    I found my Physical therapist and endocrinologist this way. Heck I found my Endocrinologist had saturday office hours and also that if you make an appt, you’ll probably wait because she takes lots of time with each patient… A decent trade for good medical advice :)

    And if you go see a Dr and you like him and he’s not on the list, you can add him. and give comments as you like. my original endocrinologist was so AWFUL but highly recommended by other doctors. He wasn’t on Rate MD so I put him on there with a scathing review. Within a month lots of other folks wrote their experiences there too.

  14. smitty1123 says:

    I don’t. I figure that if I’m eventually in a situation where I need a doctor, the ambulance will take me to the nearest hospital.

  15. forever_knight says:

    pretty much whoever the fuck my insurance company allows me to go to. that’s why i pay them you know. so they can tell me what to do.

    that and funny names! i enjoy funny dr names!

  16. Fluffiliscious says:

    I have the pleasure of working at a large university hospital so I hear a lot about the doctors and their reputations. Plus, the state of Missouri’s Department of Professional Registration lists any reprimands that a Missouri provider has against their license on their website. So I ask around, check out the Dept of PR website then Google!

  17. Beerad says:

    @arch05: Um, do you mean you prefer them if English is not their primary language? I’ve had some top-notch foreign-born doctors, and some red-blooded American sons that I would never, ever consider visiting again…

  18. Sherryness says:

    I just chose a doctor for my son a couple of weeks ago, so this is pretty timely.

    My method was first to find a list on my insurance company’s website of in-network doctors. Then out of that list I Googled several that were close-by.

    My basic criteria was for them to have been practicing for about 15 years so that they were experienced but also up on all the latest “stuff.”

    My son has autistic-like behaviors and possibly Fragile-X Syndrome (for which there is a blood test – we’re awaiting the results), and I really needed someone who could talk to me about all of that.

    Then when I narrowed it down, I Googled further on the doctor I had pretty much chosen and combined that search with local message boards and found local Moms saying how great she was.

    Sadly, once she finally saw my son, she tried to upsell me every specialist in the book. Before even knowing whether he has Fragile-X Syndrome, she wanted me to make an appointment at a University with a team of dysmorphologists. Woah, let’s find out if he has it or not first.

    Then when she diagnosed him with ADHD, she wanted to send him right to a child psychologist.

    Then, when ordering the test for Fragile-X, she ordered him an entire chromosomal panel which would have tested for every chromosomal dysfuntion in the book – not just Fragile-X.

    I have to pay a significant portion of medical fees, even though I have insurance, and these knee-jerk, premature, over-the-top recommendations would have cost me thousands of dollars.

    So unfortunately my research did not yield me with what I consider to be favorable results. In fact, I was appalled. She did nothing for my son beyond ordering the (wrong) blood test (which I did correct), and referring him to others.

    Even though it didn’t work out, I think there were some good methods to my madness. But I think an important piece of the puzzle is that doctors are individual human beings, and you just have to 1) watch them like hawks and 2) possibly try more than one before you find the one that’s right for you.

  19. Landru says:

    I had such terrible luck finding a good/adequate doctor that when the time came to change insurance, I chose Kaiser (because I figured I didn’t have anything to lose). However, when I had to pick a doctor there, I was able to review resumes and personal statements and even look at their pictures on the web. I have a great doctor now and it’s easy to change if I ever decide to. We had Kaiser when I was a kid and it was terrible; it’s very different now.

  20. JPropaganda says:

    I ask friends in the medical field, or friends of friends in the medical field (more likely) to ask around, get a list of suitable doctors, and then find out which is in my insurance.

    If you can’t trust friends of friends, who can you trust?

  21. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    @smitty1123: Same here. I haven’t seen a doctor since my paediatrician (don’t laugh, he’d continue seeing any of his patients for as long as you were comfortable going there) retired 12-13 years ago.

    I should probably find a new doctor & get a physical since I just turned 30 & all.

  22. UpsetPanda says:

    OT, I just want to point out that the post picture is one of the most hilarious ones I’ve seen in a while, cause I love House and I love those ridiculous facial expressions that make great screencaps.

  23. pda_tech_guy says:

    Unfortunately, I had to go through a few bad doctors before finding a good one. Our first doctor (my wife and I) only accepted checks, and had very elderly patients. He was boring and didnt seem to care much. And gave us pills for everything.

    Our second doctor only accepted CASH!!!! His office was in a bad part of town, and it took 1-2 hours to see him (because of all the walk-ins, and because he was the only doctor there.) and he sent us to the ER for everything! (because he didnt have the equipment he needed sometimes) that got a little expensive.

    Then someone gave me some interesting advice. Ask if they take American Express. It sounds silly, but its true, and it worked. I called a list of like 20 doctors, and only like 9 took AMEX. I then asked every single one if they had ever been sued for malpractice, asked them about their rudest patient, and a couple more interview like questions. (over the phone by the way.) I then found a perfect doctor. She is part of a practice that has 3 doctors, and OB GYN, a Pediatric doctor, and a pharmasy on site.

    Ask the AMEX question people, usually the businesses that take AMEX are doing pretty well.

  24. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    @Murph1908: AND you’ll probably have to pay a co-pay for, too!

  25. Bladefist says:

    This is why I dont listen to Clinton News Network.

  26. Sherryness says:

    Woah, I didn’t mean to post a book for the whole world – I thought comments on this particular thread were being pre-moderated. My apologies!

  27. Anonymous says:

    I’m lucky. I have the best method you could possibly have. One of my best friends is a pediatrician. He’s my twin boys’ doctor and I ask him anytime I need one for myself. He recommended a great primary, and just ask him when I need a specialist.

    Essentially he’s the best possible reference… Both a trusted friend AND a doctor.

  28. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    1) Insurance + distance from work
    2) Recommendations from family
    3) Recommendations online

    [ratemds.com]

    CNN has had some pretty crappy advice lately. There was an article about whether you were an obnoxious patient:

    Another piece of advice: Be careful how you bring up Internet information. Sounding like you know more than the doctor does could result in alienating your doctor and getting less than optimal care.

    Then there was the article about how flirting can be good for the work place:

    In fact, flirting might even have some indirect benefits on the job, says Reeder, citing research conducted at the University of South Alabama in 2003 showing that people who don’t flirt very much have lower energy levels and rate themselves as less attractive than people who flirt a lot.

  29. Dilbitz says:

    I choose a doctor that has a last name I can pronounce. I’m not “hating” on all the foreign doctors with the crazy last names that are all vowels and whatever. I just want to be able to say the last name without having my brain explode.
    That, and I have a hard time hearing as it is. I need someone that can speak clear english to me. I don’t want to have to strain in order to understand important info my doc is telling me.

  30. Anonymous says:

    @privatejoker75: Amen…I haven’t been to the doctor in years; I would rather look to natural remedies than go to the doctor; unless of course I need a hospital from overdosing or being poisoned from natural remedies and then I go wherever the ambulance takes me.

    Seriously, I go to the health food store (no, not GNC) when I’m sick, not the doctor.

  31. parad0x360 says:

    With a $40 co-pay shopping around for a Dr. Isnt exactly a great idea for me…

  32. Anitra says:

    I found my current doctor practically by blind luck. I looked for female doctors on my insurance’s website and picked one that was close (at the time) and had a “family practice” including OB/GYN. She’s great, but she operates in the ghetto, and her practice seems to be geared towards people who don’t work during the day (I’ve never gotten an early morning appointment, and I’ve never waited less than 45 minutes.)

    So, now I’m looking for a new doctor (or doctor(s), if I need a separate OB/GYN). I’ve tried asking around, and I haven’t gotten any good recommendations for a primary care doctor. Nobody I know seems very happy with their doctor.

  33. I chose my doctor based on proximity to my apt. and the one who had the least foreign sounding name. Which obviously goes against my screen name.

  34. UpsetPanda says:

    @arch05: My parents prefer doctors whose language is not their first language…they’re foreign born, find it easier to communicate even though they’re fluent in English.

  35. arch05 says:

    @Beerad: Nope, I prefer those educated in the US and whose first language is English. There are world-class medical institutions outside the US that produce world-class doctors. I know that. However, my area does not attact them. I also prefer being able to understand what my doctor says, as opposed to feeling like I’m on a call with Dell.

  36. arch05 says:

    @UpsetPanda: Excellent. I get what you meant.

  37. bukz68 says:

    “Shopping around” for a doctor in the manner that CNN suggests is costly to both the consumer and the health insurance companies. Step 1 would be finding a primary care provider who falls within your health insurance provider’s network. Step 2 would be to get as many references as possible from neighbors/coworkers/google. Step 3 would be to make an appointment AS NEEDED. Lastly, when you’re at your appointment, test the doctor by asking him to explain what he’s doing and why. If you have a specific question about any symptoms or medications ask him to explain/defend his reasoning or thought process. A good doctor will try his best to explain each and every detail in a manner that you will understand. “Well I’m sure you don’t have X because you don’t exhibit symptoms A or B. I believe your symptoms fall into the categories of Y or Z.” Or, when explaining medication “I don’t believe X is the appropriate medication because A and B. I believe a more appropriate treatment plan would be Y and/or Z.”

    Any doctor who TELLS you to do something or makes a prescription without explaining his reasoning is not worth the money you, or your insurance, will end up paying him. Patients have the right to make informed decisions and to be educated about their care so a good doctor will do his best to give you the scoop, to the best of his abilities. A very big problem with primary care these days is that to be profitable a large number of doctors run their practice like a factory line. They’ll rush into the room, do a few quick tests (whatever the nurse hasn’t already done), write a prescription, direct you to the cash register and leave. Those are the doctors you want to avoid because they’ll be much more likely to miss something that could potentially be a big problem or flat out ignore your complaints. Those types of doctors deserve every malpractice suit they get.

  38. missdona says:

    @arch05: all of your criteria + board certification. My gyn (who I love and I’ve had for years) said that it’s “not a bad way to pick a Doctor.”

  39. MercuryPDX says:

    @privatejoker75: Me too, and I vowed never to set foot in a doctors office again since I got Scarlet Fever from the last place I was in.

    I got the nastiest case of Pink Eye I have EVER gotten and called 3 local offices (Wednesday). The EARLIEST appts everyone had were for the following Tuesday. Screw you all. Urgent Care it is.

  40. MyCokesBiggerThanYours says:

    I just picked a doctor two weeks ago. The primary criteria were school of education, certification, gender and culture.

  41. laserjobs says:

    I do my own surgery and save a fortune

  42. DeeLuzon says:

    my option was to go with the ONLY one in my area who was both included in my self-pay, very pricey insurance plan and accepting new patients. and i don’t have much confidence in her (though the few, covered specialists to whom i have been referred seem ok).

  43. eyebleave says:

    When I chose a doctor for myself, many years ago, I first picked a hospital with good L&D policies. I then called the female doctors with privilages there and went with the one that could see me that week. She was new, but in a practice with a lot of older doctors, so she was up on all the latest, but had the benefit of experience if she ran across something unusual to her.

    To find a doc for my daughter before she was born, I asked my midwive (we now do things a little differently) if any other clients had recomended a good ped. I called two that came well recomended and asked for interviews with them.

    I asked their philosophy on treatment and how strongly they felt about certain issues that were important to me (vaccines, circumsion, antibiotics, etc.) I also asked who they felt should make final decisions about the health of my child. One was way way out there and she charged me for the consult, said she’d given me pregnancy advise. We went with the more mainstream man, but switched after he was adament about certain vaccines.

    Now I take her to a super busy practice near me. The single doc doesn’t care that I don’t vaccinate, and I just take my child if she’s sick. (All of once in her 16 months of life) Not ideal, but it works.

  44. mike says:

    Going to a doctor shouldn’t be too different than going to Worst Buy, or Circuit Sh*tty.

    Do your research:
    * getting antibiotics for a cold won’t do anything
    * the rash on your hand could just be a rash, and not the start of pancreatic cancer
    * doctors will push pills at you; demand that they give you alternatives (not voodoo, but real stuff)

    Do your research on any drugs they prescribe and always request a generic equivalent. If there is not generic equivalent, ask if you can take a different medication that does.

  45. GregC1968 says:

    I’m a doctor, and I think the best way to find adoc is a referral from frinds or family or from your family doctor who you trust.

    Shocking to believe, but many of those Best docs things are bogus and in many cases the placement may be dictated by $$ paid to the magazines.

  46. ekthesy says:

    @laserjobs:

    I knew a guy who had removed his own braces, with a pair of pliers. His teeth were perfect.

    He used to stitch us up after rugby and hockey games with dental floss. The scar on my chin from his stitches in 1999 is far less prevalent than the scar on my forehead from stitches done by a plastic surgeon in 1985.

    Last I heard, he was a nurse in Boston. Something to be said for medical DIY, eh?

  47. QuirkyRachel says:

    I ask around first, gather references, then lookup their licenses online and see if they’re been penalized for any misbehavior.

  48. ThinkerTDM says:

    I notice that no one has mentioned the office staff. I actually had a very good dr who had the rudest front office staff in the world. That’s how I pick a dr. Just call the office. If someone picks up and asks you to hold, it’s over. If they are rude on the phone, it’s over. If you have a question, and they don’t attempt to find an answer, it’s over.
    And the funny thing is (at least where I live), is that there are a million more dr’s a block away.
    I also find english speaking women the best.

  49. TheOtherJen says:

    @akalish:

    I did that, but every doctor on that list had like a 6 month wait. It’s really hard finding a doctor in new city.

  50. femmeknitzi1 says:

    Write a letter.

    I am one of those people who is both fat and healthy. On one hand, it means I only see a doctor once or twice a year and that’s no way to build rapport. On the other hand, it infuriates me when doctors try to put me on a diet when I come in for the flu.

    I am also very concerned with the environment and my exposure to toxic chemicals so I try to stay away from prescription drugs until I have no other options.

    With all those requirements, the best thing for me to do is to hand a new doctor a letter explaining my philosophy toward health care. If he/she responds positively, then I at least have something to base my opinion on.

  51. lennybee says:

    I asked around at work. I work in a small office, so I got about five different doctors from five different colleagues. Out of those, I eliminated those who were not in my insurance network, and picked one from the remaining, who worked in an office with other doctors who received high recommendations.

  52. Angryrider says:

    I just go to a doctor everyone knows. Plus he’s covered by Medicaid!

  53. scarletvirtue says:

    @Dead Wrestlers Society: I’m pretty much the same way – and that’s exactly how I found my allergist (The Good Doctor, as I call him).

  54. mynameisnate says:

    1. Graduation Date – You want someone who is experienced. At the same time, you want a doctor who is younger and active in continuing education (i.e. seminars to learn new procedures and medical advancments). Older doctors tend to just “stroll” through till retirment
    2. Medical School and Residency Programs – I know decent doctors that went to the Caribean to study, I just wouldn’t want them taking care of me if I had a choice.
    3. M.D. versus O.D. – I know O.D. have to go through the same residency programs, but if I had a choice sign me up for a MD
    4. Research online – you can find an abundance of information even find out if they have any pending malpractice suits.

  55. Thorzdad says:

    Referrals from friends/family. Then a quick check to see if doctor is In-Network.

    Make a bogus appointment to interview a doc? Those CNN guys must have great insurance to be able to pull that one.

  56. arch05 says:

    @mynameisnate: Exactly. I want a doctor with experience, not someone who’s going to be doing a procedure for only the second time. But I also don’t want some senile 70 yr old.

  57. Xay says:

    a) who is covered by my plan
    b) who is accepting new patients
    c) get recommendations
    d) look them up in Florida’s online database, checking for which medical school, year of graduation, certifications, hospital relationships, and any past sanctions or malpractice suits

  58. valarmorghulis says:

    Depends on what I need. If i just need to go to the GP, then proximity and cost are my primary factors. If something is going to require a specialist, or is elective (which usually requires a specialist), I’ll use the most time-honored method a consumer has…i’ll ask somebody who has used the services.

  59. snoop-blog says:

    i prefer a middle eastern milf, i mean woman.

  60. Laffy Daffy says:

    Referrals, then insurance. While cooling my heels at the tire store the other day (a pothole killed my right front wheel and tire, GRRRRR) I opened a magazine and was pleasantly surprised to see my doctor named one of the city’s best. Yesterday I got a letter from his office; he’s on medical leave and won’t be seeing patients anymore. Damn!

  61. scarletvirtue says:

    @GregC1968: The “Best of…” lists being paid spots doesn’t surprise me. There was something in The Atlantic a couple of years ago about the U.S. News list of best colleges being nothing but major bunk.

    @sohmc: I’m definitely one for researching medications. I’m the one that has to take them, and since I’m on a few for chronic conditions, I cross-check them – the last thing I want is to find out that my seizure meds interact with something the doctor wants to prescribe for an infection.

    And the sign of a good specialist – they want to treat the condition conservatively, instead of rushing to a last-resort treatment (i.e.; anti-inflammatories and physical therapy for an injury, before going right to surgery). My mom learned that one the hard way.

  62. matto says:

    I like the ones who look like they are on the teevee.

  63. Alexander says:

    Through my insurance company I searched for doctors in my general area and then I did Google search on some of the names. I found a couple of good online reviews on a doctor located two blocks from my apartment. She turned out great. When I needed a Urologist, a co-worker recommended his urologist (who is in-network for my insurance) but the referral was denied. I was sent somewhere else. I was really worried of getting a crappy doctor but the urologist they sent me to was great. I got lucky I suppose.

  64. Caduceus says:

    As a physician, I would recommend asking your local friends and family who they like. Sit down for that first “complete physical” and see if you mesh.

    If you don’t like the physician, next year for your annual, choose another. It is important to have a physician who has your records in cases of emergencies (surgery, accidents, etc. so you aren’t tossed into the “unassigned” category at your local hospital).

    The bottom line is trust and respect. If you don’t trust your doctor or respect them, (and the feeling should be mutual) find another physician.

  65. tmed says:

    I find that when I am between doctors I go to the doctor’s more often. That way I can see a Doctor’s manner and approach in a lower stress situation. Once I have found the doctor I want, I can stop going for the minor things and stick to check-ups and larger issues.

  66. GregC1968 says:

    i once had a patient remove his own long leg cast with a circular saw. I don’t recommend it.

  67. snowmentality says:

    I think we need a Mechan-X Files for doctors. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a database of mechanics maintained by Car Talk, the NPR radio show about car repair. You can add a mechanic or rate one who’s already there (and add your reviews). It’s searchable by business name, location, and specialty. I’ve found my most trusted mechanics through there.

    I would love something like this for doctors. Referrals from friends and family are great, but what if you move to a new city for a job and need, say, a GYN exam? You probably wouldn’t be comfortable asking around at work.

    The thing is, it would have to be promoted pretty heavily, so that the database could be populated. So it would need to be associated with a popular radio or TV show about health. People’s Pharmacy? Oprah?

  68. robotprom says:

    @snowmentality: Citysearch has a section on doctors. That’s how my wife picked her OB/Gyn and how I picked my dentist.

    For my GP, I picked the closest one, but for specialists I do visit different ones until I find one I like. It’s easy to do if you have a PPO plan.

  69. MissPeacock says:

    Typically I pick someone for my general physician who is closest to where I live, in case I get really sick; that way I won’t have to drive too far. Simple as that. For someone like a gynecologist, I typically go for someone my friends recommend to me.

  70. tk427 says:

    How are you supposed to see a new doctor for just a hangnail? They are going to want to do a new patient physical (with every test in the book) to cover their ass with their malpractice insurance company.

  71. stoptextingme says:

    In spite of rude staff and billing issues I stick with my GP because they take walk ins…ON WEEKENDS-which anyone who has ever woken up on a Saturday morning with a UTI knows is a clincher…

    However, I’m still struggling to find a neurologist who doesn’t repeatedly tell me I’m pretty or suggest Aleive as a treatment for debilitating migraines…

  72. threlkelded says:

    When I’m trying to find a specialist, I usually fax a short list of the people who take my insurance to my GP and ask them to make a couple of recommendations.

    That’s how I found my OBGYN, who is the nicest woman alive.

    As for how I found my GP in the first place, she was recommended to me by a friend. I guess the lesson is just ask around.

  73. Sonnymooks says:

    I’m kind of glad that most folks here do not automatically eliminate a doctor based on race.

    I’m sad to say I know several doctors who african-american and latino who have had potential patients refuse them and go to their competitors under the belief that they only were doctors because of affirmative action programs and thus were under qualified.

    I can’t imagine spending all that money on medical school only to find out that your degree is thought of as crap because some idiot thinks you got by on color.

  74. shanaynay says:

    I must live in the wrong area of the country. If I tried to “interview” a doctor, I’d get laughed out of town.

    So, I choose on recommendations from friends and coworkers. I vastly prefer women, because a female GP is much more likely to provide “women’s health” services, too, and I’d just as soon get my Pap, breast exams, etc. while I’m there, instead of having another doctor who gets all up in my, erm, personal business, then doesn’t see me again for a year.

    And every male doctor I’ve had has done that bullshit backing-out-the-door thing, as well as the bullshit not-listening-to-me thing. Woman doctors are, in general, better listeners and much more sympathetic to issues like depression and perimenstrual issues. Call it sexist if you feel the need, but I go on experience.

  75. AbsoluteIrrelevance says:

    1) In-network
    2) Yelp reviews
    3) Good office hours
    4) Location

  76. jstonemo says:

    I have insurance and don’t go to the doctor. I am helping keep costs down for the rest of America. You’re welcome!

  77. jstonemo says:

    Oh wait, I forgot. I go to the nurse practicioner at Walgreens for any problems. Screw the doctors… a bunch of over-charging weenies with a god complex.

  78. Illusio26 says:

    Whoever is closest, in network and can fit me in as soon as possible.

  79. ktmorton says:

    Ask coworkers and friends. Coworkers have the benefit of knowing which doctors are in and out of network for your plan. I’ve found three excellent doctors (different specialties) through friends at work, and I’ve even been told that my internist is “the best in the city”. I certainly felt that way when I was there!

  80. magic8ball says:

    @radleyas: Yay! I had to choose my first gyno from a list provided by my HMO. Knowing nothing about any of them, I picked the one who was named Dick Clark. Because who doesn’t want a doctor named Dick Clark?

  81. virtuallori says:

    Personal recommendation is the only way to go.

  82. amoeba says:

    I have a friend who is a Psychiatrist MD, she knows every single MD in this little town, so I am lucky enough to have her refer the best doctors in town. Besides, when I get a cold or flu she writes me down a prescription without paying anything. Glad to have her as a friend!

  83. stuny says:

    Degree from a first- or second-world medical school only.

    Med school’s name should not end with dot-com

    Check the obituaries for recent deaths and compare to doctor’s patient list. If there is a match, find someone else.

  84. samurailynn says:

    I go down the list of doctors who are supposedly accepting new patients and are in my health insurance network. I make an appoint with the first one on the list that is actually accepting new patients. I had to do this about 2 weeks ago and I literally called about 5 clinics (each with 3-5 doctors that were covered) on my list before one of the ladies that I talked to said “here, try this clinic, I think they’re accepting new patients.”

  85. MARTHA__JONES says:

    My general doctor was the recommendation of a friend’s roomate – she loved her and the office is VERY close to home.

    My dentist is a family friend.

    My gyno was recommended by my sister.

    My dermatologist was recommended by my gyno’s office (apparently lots of women have skin issues which are of a sensitive nature -not me- so they told me they have a list on hand.)

  86. Me. says:

    I found a database that gave me every doctor in my area, every school they attended, if they had any above & beyond specialties, if they have any pending or previous malpractice suits, AND if they’ve ever settled a malpractice suit out of court.

    From that list, I picked all females from Ivy League schools and I’ve been happy with each one.

  87. scarletvirtue says:

    @AbsoluteIrrelevance: I’ve written a few Yelp reviews for doctors! (I mean, I’m on that site, and I’ve written reviews about doctors that I’ve gone to…)

    @Sonnymooks: For me, a doctor’s race/ethnicity or gender doesn’t matter. I just want the doctor to be good, and do right by me.

    @jstonemo: Isn’t that what WebMD.com is for – to eliminate doctors? I’m always fond of playing the “What am I dying of now?” game through that site. Besides, I like to play my own Nurse.

  88. We lucked into our GP’s. Hubby had a cold that turned into a cough of several weeks’ duration. When he coughed up blood, I told him that’s it, he was going to a doctor. It happened to be the President’s Day holiday, so we had some trouble finding a local GP, on his insurance, who was open that day AND seeing new patients! But our GP was all of these. Their practice is great, with lots of convenient hours. And when I needed a dermatologist to remove a suspicious mole, I just went by her recommendation, and he turned out to be super too.

  89. LAGirl says:

    i get referrals from friends, or from a doctor i’m already using. have always had good luck doing it this way.

  90. RocktheDebit says:

    I asked my mother. It seems to have gone okay.

  91. Sonnymooks says:

    @scarletvirtue:

    I’m glad to hear that, its funny this topic got posted because I recently had to see a doctor about a back problem.

    One doctor I knew who was black recommended a guy (ironically, I never could get an appointment with him, go figure), I asked some folks I knew who had been around if they knew the guy, the only response I kept getting was that he was black, and they all assumed that he probably only was a doctor because of affirmative action (i.e. government programs got him into college, got him into med school, etc).

    It kind of depressed me so I asked my first friend (the doctor who recommended him) how good he was, and told him the crap I heard. He blew it off and said that it happens all the time, he would rather people judged him by his results and by talking to his patients, but that race is still a factor that many folks use, and alot of sterotypes are still around, they just aren’t spoken aloud.

  92. EllenRose says:

    I find a practice with a fair number of doctors, convenient both in geography and insurance. Then I call the practice, and talk with the woman who makes appointments. (It’s never been a man in all my years.) I describe myself and how I like to work with my doctors, and then comes the clincher:

    I ask her which of their doctors works best with patients like me.

    Asking the front desk for their best doctor is useless – it would be as much as their job is worth to answer that question. Ask for a good fit, and it lets them use their personal knowledge of the staff in a good cause. Never failed me yet.

  93. MYarms says:

    Don’t get insurance and you won’t have to deal with this horrible problem.

  94. chasensteele says:

    Based upon ones community a persons choices are limited. Personally in Utica NY for Cardiology one must choose between a firm with many partners where you never see the same Dr. twice or another Cardiologist where one must wait 2 hrs. or more when going for a scheduled appointment.

    I use a service called RateMD.com when selecting specialists.

  95. galatae says:

    Google “Doctor ratings” and you get a host of services that ‘rate’ doctors on various criteria. Not all are free, of course, but some allow patients to rate their docs. I think WebMD does too.

    Best bet is to get recommendations from friends, co-workers, other doctors, and check with the state licensing board, and the doctors’ specialty board for additional information on the physician.

    I found a bariatric physician for my parents after going through the Bariatric Board’s web site for a referral and checking out the guy’s web site. I chose him because he was very specific on his web site about what he would and would not recommend with regards to surgery and fad pills/diets. He also checked out with the state medical licensing board (up to date, no pending issues) and had board certification in his specialty, something which you don’t necessarily need to be licensed to practice, however it tells you that their training is up to date.

    Do not rely on your insurance listing for doctors. You really should call the doctors office to find out if they’ accept your insurance. This stuff changes daily.

  96. dugn says:

    Two best tips I’ve used my whole life: Ask a nurse (nurses know everything about the medical community). They’ll tell you who’s good and – sometimes more importantly – who’s bad.

    Call a few doctors to get an appointment. The one that takes the longest, is the most popular and usually the best. Only downside is getting an appt. when you need one :)

  97. magnus150 says:

    I just looked at my insurance provider’s website for the closest supported and went. Haven’t regretted it since, my doc is great!

  98. leftystrat says:

    I need a new primary. I asked a doc friend for a recommendation and he suggested the primary I just fired because of a rude staff and an assembly line practice.

    My friend said I had `certain peculiarities’ which would make finding a new doctor difficult. And boy was he right.

    I like a practice with hours that don’t require me to take off work – that knocks out about 60% right there. I have one of two large Evil HMOs, which should effectively knock the rest of them out.

    So now, according to the HMO, I’m supposed to choose from their directory. On a search for a doc within 5 miles, it stops at 100, and I’ve only gotten the A’s.

    Every one I call is either `not accepting new patients’ or can squeeze me in within three or four months from now. Yeah, right.

    You betcha I’m unreasonable and have `certain peculiarities’.
    Meanwhile, we have a full fledged healthcare crisis on our hands, folks.

    So for now, I’ll continue paying HUNDREDS per month for alleged healthcare coverage, which essentially entitles me to pay $15-$35 per service in copays (IF I can get anyone to provide the service).

  99. samurailynn says:

    I would never have thought to prefer a white doctor over a black doctor. Actually, even reading some of the the comments, it still wouldn’t matter to me. However, I do have to admit that when I lived in California I searched for doctors with non-foreign sounding names. On a couple of occasions I ended up seeing a doctor that either barely spoke english, or spoke with such a thick accent that I could hardly understand them. Most of the time, I’m pretty tolerant of this, but when it comes to a doctor, I want to make sure that I can understand them, and that they can understand me.

  100. 1. Broad-based recommendations from friends (and, best of all, friends in the medical community).

    2. Once you’ve narrowed it down (by recs, by insurance coverage, by location), call and say you’re doctor-shopping, Doctor X came highly recommended, and you’d like to see if you’re a good fit. Most places WILL accommodate you, although you may have to pay out-of-pocket.

    In the alternative, go to one of your narrowed-down doctors for routine care, like a pap smear or (for me) a sinus infection (I get enough every winter it provides adequate doctor-shopping opportunities).

    The WORST time to doctor-shop is in a medical crisis situation. But with something routine like a sinus infection, or strep, or whatever, any idiot can diagnose it and treat it, and you know it won’t kill you, so you can shop with something like that.

  101. @Anitra: For an ob/gyn, I e-mailed close to 100 women through a women’s volunteer organization I’m active with. Everyone was super-sympathetic because ob/gyn shopping SUCKS. I got lots of “not so enthused” and “don’t go to HER!” but there were two practices that came out CLEAR winners from my survey, and they were incidentally the two my PCP had recommended as well.

    I got much better ob/gyn recs from women who’d given birth, incidentally. They’ve spent a lot more time with their ob/gyns, and been through something fairly stressful!

  102. mwshook says:

    (I’m a family physician)
    I was at a conference, on “The Future of Family Medicine” and the speaker asked the audience “what do patients look for when they search for a doctor.”

    People called out things like “intelligence,” “compassion,” etc.

    Although those things were in the top ten, the first three were
    1. Takes my insurance.
    2. Close to where I live/work.
    3. Can see me on the same day I call.

    Also, ask patients for recommendations, and they will give you a doctor with a lot of people skills. Ask doctors for recommendations, and they usually give you someone really smart/skilled. If someone is recommended by both a doctor, and a patient, that’s who you want.

  103. Gev says:

    I asked a co-worker whose opinions I trusted who she went to. Since we both worked at the same place, I knew that whoever it was would take our insurance. That doctor turned out to be a very good one.

    When I switched jobs and found that my new insurance wouldn’t cover that doctor I made an appointment with my soon-to-be former doctor and told him I’d have to drop him due to insurance and asked who he’d recommend. His recommendation also turned out to be a good one.

    Maybe I’m just lucky but that worked for me.

  104. ohnoes says:

    @mynameisnate – it’s D.O., not O.D. D.O. = Doctor of osteopathy, while O.D. is a reason why you would have to visit either an M.D. or D.O.

    I find it interesting that a lot of people evaluate based on last name. I have a foreign last name, but I was raised in this country and scored really high on the verbal sections of my SAT and MCAT, so I theoretically have a better grasp of English than about 99% of the non-foreign sounding Americans, if my percentiles are to be believed.

    While I know that proper communication is key to a successful doctor-patient relationship, it’s a wee bit frustrating to know that my name will prescreen me out of many (by the comments anyway) patients’ initial choices.

  105. quieterhue says:

    I just got Aetna insurance through work. I went on the Aetna website to find a primary care doctor in my network, and I discovered that they have a patient rating system. I picked a doctor close to my office with a very high patient rating, and I ended up liking her a lot. The rating system isn’t exactly scientific, but it’s nice to have something to go by.

  106. bbbici says:

    Wow, you people must be lucky to be able to pick a doctor. Up here in Canada you just take what you can get, there are so few to go around. In fact, doctors interview YOU to see if they want to take you on as a patient.

  107. scarletvirtue says:

    @mwshook: A doctor seeing a patient on the same day? I’m blown away when that happens. Probably because I’d had prior experiences with doctors where I’d have to make appointments weeks – or sometimes, months – in advance.

    @Sonnymooks: If I were to pass judgement like that, I wouldn’t have had the neurologist that I did when I was living in St. Louis. (She was an awesome doctor – kind of wish that I had someone like her, here in California!)

  108. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    On the other hand, it infuriates me when doctors try to put me on a diet when I come in for the flu.

    @femmeknitzi1: Oh, I KNOW. Don’t tell me you can’t (won’t) figure out why the back of my throat is swelling up and then go on about my weight. Unless my weight is why I am currently choking on my uva then let’s stay focused on the problem here, mkay?

  109. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    I find it interesting that a lot of people evaluate based on last name.

    @ohnoes: Yeah, that’s kind of stupid really.

  110. RvLeshrac says:

    @Murph1908:

    Except that the insurance company doesn’t pay it. You pay it, if you’re a cash customer, but UHC (for example) only pays $30-$40.

    @Sonnymooks:

    This is the problem with Affirmative Action. Years ago, it was a _necessity_, since a black person couldn’t get into ANY non-black school without AA, regardless of ability. You also had to protect the black students from poor professors who would grade based on race.

    Now, it isn’t a big deal – if you can pay, they’ll let you in. Now, AA hurts because of the above. People think that AA simply “evens the playing field” for less-qualified candidates, as opposed to countering racism, since a qualified candidate is going to get in regardless of race. On a less-obvious front, it “helps” white people get ahead – people see AA as forcing out the less-qualified white candidates in favor of the minority candidates, so “obviously” the white graduates are the cream-of-the-crop. To some extent, this is true – the white candidates are probably going to be better. Among white candidates. It doesn’t mean that the black candidates are any worse, and it also doesn’t mean that the worst white candidate is necessarily going to be any better than the worst black candidate.

    The white candidates may indeed be the “cream of the crop,” but if all the black candidates outperform them, the choice is obvious.

    @Sherryness:

    Age works, too. You want an older doctor for a primary-care physician, but you want a younger doctor when searching for a specialist.

    Why the former? Because an older doctor is more likely to have seen it all. Your primary care physician really doesn’t have any need to be “up” on all the latest news.

    Why the latter? Because a younger doctor is more likely to read everything, and is going to be more willing to listen to information on newer treatments. You’re probably not going to get an older physician who spends late nights browing around PubMed.

  111. RvLeshrac says:

    @bbbici:

    On the flip side, I had to wait two hours in the emergency room when I was having SEVERE chest pains (pericarditis) and still had to pay $1600.

  112. RvLeshrac says:

    One final point: Ask your doctor about Homeopathy and Alternative Medicine.

    If they say anything favorable that doesn’t include the word “placebo,” you need to drop them like a frigging ROCK. Weasel-words need to be clarified, since they may think you’re a homeopathic wackjob and don’t want to scare you away from valuable medical advice.

    And please report them on RateMD so that the rest of us will know about it.

  113. elaineous says:

    I look at the list of doctors, and find one close by with a very foreign name. Hopefully they’ve gone to medical school in some other country, and are as little like American doctors as possible.

    This has served me well. I change jobs/insurance a lot, so I’m choosing a new doctor every other year or so.

  114. I’ve been so lucky in the past that I’m actually slightly nervous about finding a new doctor. I definitely think I’ll try some of the screening processes suggested by people here: insurance/work/google/journals (wouldn’t have thought of that one).

    There are also sort of “deal breakers” for me. I’m not big on drugs so I’d ask on the first appointment how quick they’d be to prescribe them for various conditions. I like doctors to wear the white coat, even if it’s open. I had a creepy doctor who didn’t wear it, and seriously, it was like having my teacher examine my back. Very creepy.