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Choosing a Physician

Choosing a physician is an important decision. Be sure to think about what kind of physician you’re looking for - do you need an internist, a pediatrician, obstetrician, or family practitioner? If you are having a specific problem, you may want to start out by seeing a primary care physician, who can help you select a specialist, if and when one is necessary.

Also, if you belong to an employer health insurance plan such as an HMO (Health Maintenance  Organization) or PPO (Preferred Provider Organization), you may have to choose from a list of pre-approved physicians. Be sure to check with your employer if you are affected by such plan.

Here is a list of questions to ask when choosing a physician. The answers will not only provide helpful, factual information, but may also give you valuable insight into the physician’s character, and help determine your compatibility.  Some answers may be found via the physicians website, while some may be best to address to the physician/practice directly.

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Physician

Background and Credentials

Are you board certified?
Board certification means that the physician has received up to seven years of additional training in a specialty and has passed a national board exam.

With what hospitals are you affiliated?
This can be very important to know in times of medical emergencies. You may also consider location of the physician’s office an important factor.

Do you belong to any medical societies or professional organizations?
Membership and participation in local and national medical organizations demonstrates a strong level of commitment to both the community and the medical profession.

General Practice and Procedure
Are you currently accepting new patients?
The answer to this question will determine whether you can consider this physician.

Are you part of a group practice that gives me access to other physicians in the group?
It may be important for you to know if you’ll be seeing the same doctor at every visit. If you prefer to build a strong relationship with one physician, a solo practice may be better for you. If you prefer coverage at all times, a group practice may best meet your needs. Ask if you will see a physician, a physician assistant, or a nurse practitioner.

Do you accept my Insurance?
Unless you are paying the full cost of care, your health insurance (e.g. Excellus BC/BS, MVP, YourCare, Aetna, etc.) will be responsible for paying the costs of your care (subject to your deductible).  Find out if he or she will accept your Insurance. You may also confirm this information by phoning your insurance provider.

How far in advance must appointments be made for checkups and urgent situations?
Be sure to find a physician whose schedule is compatible with your own.

How can I contact you if an emergency arises when your office is closed?
Can you contact the physician directly day or night, or does the physician use an answering service?

What arrangements are made when a physician is unavailable?

Getting Personal
How do you feel about involving a patient’s family in decision making?
Will the physician take time to explain your condition and keep you family informed of any developments? It is important that you tell your physician exactly how you feel about family involvement.

Do you believe that whatever a patient tells you is confidential?
Patient-physician confidentiality is a tradition within the medical profession. However, there may be times when a physician is required to report information to the government, such as an outbreak of measles.

Do you always get patient permission before releasing records?
A physician normally will not release your records unless you have already given general consent, such as when: you want another physician to look at your records; your primary care physician is consulting another physician; your insurance company has requested it; you are checking into a clinic or hospital; or you have a medical emergency.

How would you feel if I sought a second opinion on your diagnosis or recommended therapy?
As a patient, you have the right to seek a second opinion whenever you feel one is necessary. This is sometimes done in cases of serious, nonemergency care.

Besides my medical history and current health, what would you want to know about me?
Your physician should want to know as much about you as possible. Details of your personal life can be an important aspect of your overall health and well being.

The Office Visit
The office staff should be calm, polite and friendly, and the atmosphere should be clean and comfortable.

When scheduling an appointment, ask for help in choosing a time when waiting will be minimal. Ask how much time to allow.

On the day of the visit, call ahead to see if the physician is running “on schedule.”

Remember that you are entitled to a full explanation of all diagnosis, medications, tests, treatments, and charges. Keep asking until you fully understand any unfamiliar medical language. Write down your diagnosis, and feel free to ask for any further explanations, pictures, or written material. Find out how long this condition will affect you - Are there any lifestyle or habit changes that might help? What effect will treatment have? Try using your own words to explain your condition back to your doctor, as you understand it. 

If tests are ordered, ask about the purpose, risks, and effects of each test. When and how will you learn the results of the test? Is there another way to obtain the same information? If results are being shared through a patient portal, ask for specific directions about how to access the information.

Regarding medication, be sure to inform your physician of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you are taking. Ask about the type of relief to expect, and when to expect it. In what manner are you to take the medication, and for how long? Be sure to ask about side effects, and carefully monitor any and all effects the medication has.

Remember, there is nothing wrong with asking questions or bringing a list of concerns with you to your physician’s office. Open communication is of utmost importance in your relationship with your doctor. We hope that you will ask the questions in this brochure when selecting a physician, and then follow up with the suggestions provided. Building a comfortable trust with your physician is one of the most basic things you can do for your health, and the Erie County Medical Society is here to help.

Open communication is of utmost importance in your relationship with your doctor. We hope that you will ask the questions in this brochure when selecting a physician, and then follow up with the suggestions provided. Building a comfortable trust with your physician is one of the most basic things you can do for your health, and the  Erie County Medical Society is here to help.

Find a Physician

The Erie County Medical Society can provide you with a list of member physician who are currently accepting new patients.

Click here to Find a Physician.

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