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The Ultimate Guide to
Choosing the Right Specialist Doctor

8 tips for choosing a medical specialist

When you're unwell, searching for a specialist that you trust can feel stressful. You want someone who will take the best care of you, but when you don't know where to start looking, it's difficult to be sure that you'll find the right doctor. You might not know yet what sort of specialist you need to see, and you may have little idea of what you need to look for in terms of their qualifications and experience. But even if you're unsure at the beginning, as you search for someone you like, you'll find that you know what you want. You'll be able to tell when a doctor isn't suitable for you. The process can be a bit confusing though, so try following these steps to ensure that you get the best care.

Work Out What Sort of Doctor You Need

It may come as a surprise to you that choosing a specialist isn't as simple as finding someone who's an expert in the area that you're experiencing symptoms. For example, back pain could be a result of a problem with your feet, a neurological issue or being overweight. There could be hundreds of treatments, from surgery to medication and physiotherapy. It's sometimes very difficult for someone who isn't medically qualified to pin down the exact problem. Obviously there are cases when you know what you want, whether it's a pediatrician or an OBGYN. But if you don't know who to go to, it's best to start with your primary care physician. They can help you get to the cause of the symptoms and recommend a specialist for further tests and treatment.

Doctor consults with a family
When you search for the right specialist doctor, you want someone who will take the best care
for you and your family. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Make a List of Preferences

Before you begin your search, you can make a list of the things that you're looking for. You may not know exactly what you do and don't like about a doctor's bedside manner and other finer details, but you can narrow down your search with some major factors. For example, you might need someone who accepts a particular type of insurance. Some people want someone who speaks a language other than English, and you might have a preferred gender too. You're also likely to want them to be accessible from your home, and you may even want them to have a certain amount of experience or a particular educational background. Don't forget that you want someone who's taking new patients too.

Ask for Recommendations and Referrals

Before searching for yourself, try asking people for recommendations first. Your primary care physician is a good person to start with, especially if you trust their opinion. You can also ask friends, family, and colleagues. You'll often find that someone you know has seen the same type of specialist that you need, and they can tell you whether they recommend you see them or choose someone else. Searching on the internet is the next step, but there's nothing like starting with the opinion of someone you know and trust.

Search Online

If asking for recommendations doesn't turn up anything of use, it's time to begin searching in other ways. The internet is the best way to get lots of information quickly and to filter out the specialists that you don't want at the click of your mouse. Although you can just perform a Google search and look at individual doctors' websites, it makes much more sense to use a site like SpecialistDoctors. On this site, you will only find specialists who have been approved by a panel of experts, so you don't have to spend time weeding out the ones who aren't up to standard. After searching by specialism or location, you can view a doctor's profile to learn more about them and make an appointment online. Don't forget to use your list of requirements to find someone you like.

Doctor examining a young girl
Finding a medical specialist you like means having a doctor whom you can trust to deliver
the best medical services needed. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Read Reviews

Although the opinion of people you know and trust is best, it's also worth regarding that of other patients. You can read online reviews of lots of doctors so that you can get a feel for how other people have found their experience. When you're reading reviews, try not to rule people out because of one or two bad ones. It's not always possible to find people with completely clean records, and it's difficult to tell if a reviewer is incredibly picky. But it's obviously best to steer clear of anyone with poor overall ratings.

Check Credentials

If you haven't used a website where each listing is vetted, make sure you check a doctor's qualifications and credentials before making an appointment. There are a few simple checks to you can do. Firstly, make sure they are board certified by looking at the American Board of Medical Specialties, or the relevant authority. You can look for any negative reports on the website of the authority that licenses them, and you can also perform a Google search.

Make an Appointment

When you've chosen a doctor, it's time to make an appointment. But don't stop assessing their service now. The first thing you can do is take note of the ease and friendliness of making an appointment, whether you do it online, over the phone or in person. When you arrive, check out the facilities and watch the staff to see how well they do their jobs. Pay attention to how good everyone is at time keeping and whether you get into your appointment on time.

Ask Plenty of Questions

Make sure you turn up to your appointment prepared. As well as taking any relevant information they have asked you to bring, have a list of questions on hand too. You may want to ask them about treatment options, their experience with your condition, or even just for some more information about your symptoms and causes. During your appointment, think about how well the doctor explains the things you want to know and how personable and professional you find them. If something tells you that they're not right for you, it's perfectly acceptable to go somewhere else.

You might be anxious to see a specialist as soon as possible, but don't rush the process of finding someone. You'll feel much happier and confident if you find someone that you trust with your health.

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