7 Steps to Picking the Best Doctor

BetterDoctor has created a 10-variable, data-driven algorithm to help determine the best doctors based on factors like medical school quality, quality of residency, years of experience and referrals from other doctors.  But how do you pick between all of the 5-star doctors out there?  Which is the best doctor for your medical needs, communication style and availability?

We put together a list of steps to choosing a doctor from those who know best: doctors themselves.

1. Ask your family and friends

“In my personal experience, and what I usually share with my patients is that you should first ask your friends and relatives. Each of us has a personal history of our health care —good and bad. And most of us love to share stories of our care. When the name of one doctor seems to keep resurfacing as a good listener, pick up the phone to make your appointment with that doctor.”
-Dr. Jeffrey Oster, podiatrist and CMO of myfootshop.com

“My biggest tip: talk to your friends. They are the best resource of who to use.”
Dr. Gino Tutera, OBGYN

2. Ask your own doctors and nurses who they recommend

“Ask a doctor who they would take their family member to.  First, make an appointment with an established physician.  This would be someone who has practiced in the community for 5-10 years.  You can usually see this information on the local hospital/medical group website.  Next, set up an appointment with that doctor.  Tell the scheduler you’re “new to the area and are trying to establish care.” When you see the doctor, tell them what you told the scheduler.  Then ask, “Who do you take your family to?”  Established doctors know other local physicians.  They’ve shared patients or had people transfer to/from their practices.  And most know who they would NOT want their family to see.  However, they will never tell you this information because of risk of libel/defamation law suits.  Asking who they recommend avoids this.  It also allows you to “screen” physicians in a way that’s much better than online reviews.”
Dr. Kevin Cuccaro, anasthesiologist

“Nurses have their finger on the pulse of health care. They know who’s good.”
-Dr. Jeffrey Oster, podiatrist

“Check with doctors you trust and your local hospital for recommendations.  Your physician can make a referral to another doctor.  Make sure the doctor is board-certified in that specialty.”
-Dr. Paul Wetter, laparoendoscopic surgeon and chairman of the Society for Laparoendoscopic Surgeons

3. Research online, but take reviews with a grain of salt

“Consumer review websites can be a great way for finding a great dentist. Look for someone with at least 10+ reviews online. A great tip is to read the one or two star reviews but with a focus on the dentist’s response. The way the dentist responds shows a lot about the their true personality.”
Dr. Sheila Dobee, dentist

“There are some good physicians who have high ratings.  But there are many ‘not good’ physicians who do too.  These doctors tend to say yes to whatever their patients may ask for.  And while this is a good technique to satisfy patients, it is a poor technique keep you healthy.  What you really want when you’re looking for a new doctor is someone who:
1)  Listens to your concerns
2)  Examines you appropriately
3)  Explains things fully
Most importantly, though, you want an honest doctor who tells you what you need to hear, not what you may think you want.”
Dr. Kevin Cuccaro, anasthesiologist

4. Check their credentials

“The most important criteria should be the qualification of the doctor. Before you choose anyone, you should always ensure they are certified through the American Board of Medical Specialties. This certification would guarantee that the healthcare provider you are considering has earned his/her degree from a qualified medical school and that they have completed three to seven years of their residency training. When evaluating doctor credentials, you should also ensure that they are licensed by a state medical board and have passed the necessary ABMS exams.”
Dr. Marina Gafanovich, internist

“Research their credentials, but don’t just look at the quality of their medical school.  Check and see where the doctor completed their residency.  The patient demographic is different from one residency program to another, which means your doctor may have a limited exposure to a particular patient base than another program.  You want a doctor who has seen it all and who has completed a high-quality residency program.”
-Michelle Katz, LPN, author of Healthcare Made Easy

5. Meet with your potential physicians

“Write a list of qualities that you want your dentist to have. Call the office and tell the office manager that you are a potential patient seeking a new dentist and would like to visit the office and meet the dentist. This will allow you to get a much better feel for the office staff and the dentist before you make your decision. Most dental offices will accommodate for this at no charge.”
Dr. Sheila Dobee, dentist

“Figure out what is important to you.  Do you care about the gender of your doctor?  Does your doctor go to the hospital?  If you have a chronic medical problem, it might be important for you that doctors are willing to see you in the hospital, or that the doctor lives near you.”
Dr. Tiffany Ruiz-Sizemore, internist

6. Choose a doctor who can communicate

“Make sure your physician is relatable. There is nothing worse than seeing a doctor who is unable to explain things in a manner that is easy to understand. It’s your health; if anyone needs to understand what’s going on, it’s you!  Also, having a physician that’s relatable makes it easier to open up and share honestly about personal issues. Feeling comfortable enough with your doctor to be open and honest leads to better healthcare.”
Dr. Angela Jones, OBGYN

“The number one thing a patient should consider is whether or not the physician has the same philosophy as he/she does. Of course, a physician’s credentials, experience and online reviews can offer insight as to whether or not he/she is a good fit. Location can also be a quite obvious and important factor. But beyond all of this, the only true way to know if the physician is a good fit is to meet with him/her. This is how you will learn if he/she is a good communicator and listener. Will you feel heard? Will you have the opportunity to make choices in your care? These are the questions you should ask yourself when you meet with a physician.”
Dr. Michael Delatorre, intake physician

7. Look at their work

“A patient should consider a surgeon who has before and after photographs on the practice website.”
Dr. Houtan Chaboki, facial plastic surgeon

 

Do you have any more tips for picking a doctor? Let us know in the comments!

 

Image from DIBM images // Flickr

Divya Raghavan

Hi! I'm Divya. I lead marketing at BetterDoctor. I'm a Midwesterner, vegetarian and Harvard graduate.