By Martin Williams

Finding a new doctor is a task that no one really likes to do, mainly because it can be so confusing. You know you can get referrals from friends and co-workers, but the doctors they like may not be very good for you. And, if any family members have special needs, the doctors your friends like might not have the right experience, which would not be appropriate at all. So how do you go about finding a doctor for your family?

First, Look at Clinic Websites and Doctor Rating Sites

Narrow down names by going to whatever review sites you can find. If your insurance covers a particular clinic network, for example, go to that clinic’s website like Aim Health in Portland OR, look at doctor bios to find several who seem like they might be good and who are accepting new patients. The clinic may allow patient ratings, so take those into consideration.

Then start looking for those names on review sites. Some are set up specifically to review doctors, but you can also check general business rating websites for additional reviews. Sort by “newest review first” and be on the lookout for waves of reviews that have similar dates and text; those could be fake.

As for the reviews that appear to be real, look for repeating complaints or compliments. Maybe people love the doctor, but she’s so busy that it’s hard to get an appointment with her. That might be fine for you but not so good for your spouse who needs a lot of medical care. Or, maybe people complained about the office staff until a couple of years ago, at which point reviews mention how wonderful the new office staff is. That’s an indication that the doctor actively makes improvements.

Next, the Consultation

Once you’ve narrowed down names to a few who seem to have good reviews, contact their offices and ask to set up a consultation appointment. Let the staff know you’re just there to see if you and the doctor would be a good match, and you are not seeking treatment during that appointment. You’ll likely have about 10 minutes or so, so write down your questions and pertinent information.

At the appointment pay attention to how office staff treat you and interact with each other and other patients. Are they brusque but efficient and professional? That’s good, as are staff who are friendly and laid back, but still efficient and professional. Did the nurse who called you into the exam room snap at you for not moving fast enough even though she was the one running late? That’s not a good sign at all.

When you meet with the doctor, let him or her know what you need. Ask what the doctor expects of patients, and how the doctor reacts when a patient doesn’t agree with a treatment plan and refuses to follow it. For example, if you try not to use medication whenever possible, and the doctor wants to put you on medication “as a preventative measure,” what would the doctor do if you refused the medication? Would she get angry? Would he “fire” you as a patient? Or would you simply get a note in your file that the medication was offered but you refused?
If you or your family have special needs, like replacing hearing devices in Santa Clarita, now is the time to ask the doctor about her experience handling them. It can take some time to winnow down your list of names, but it is better to take the time to get consultations and ask questions than it is to blindly choose a doctor and hope for the best.