Finding the right doctor isn’t easy. It requires a lot of shopping and digging. You want to find a doctor who you feel has the qualifications and skills for the best care. It’s really an important professional relationship. Smart questions and some skepticism can help you find Dr. Right.

The Search for Dr. Right

What kind of doctor do you need-a primary care doctor or a specialist? A primary care doctor is one who can take care of all your medical needs on a long-term basis. A specialist has a deeper but narrower skill set for specific problems with things like cardiovascular health. Most folks rely on their primary care physician to direct them to a specialist or subspecialist when needed. Whether it’s a primary care doctor or specialist, you want to find out about the doctor’s education and experience. You can use resources like UA News’s Top Medical Schools to learn about educational quality. Google is also your best friend, as most doctors have an online presence that can shed some insight. Just keep in mind that a website is only one evaluation tool for finding Dr. Right.  

Finding the Right Primary Care Doctor

Everyone needs a primary care doctor for the typical medical problems, such as colds, sinus infections and chronic conditions like high blood pressure. The primary care doctor will assess the problem and direct you to a specialist if needed. Internists are the broad category of primary care providers. Family practitioners, gynecologists and geriatricians can also be primary care physicians depending on age and gender. In addition to asking friends for referrals and your primary care doctor’s referral, you can look into resources like US News’s Top Doctors. This is a resource which uses peer referrals based on communication skills, clinical skills and qualifications. There are also other websites like that post patient doctor reviews.

Be sure to check into possible disciplinary actions and board certification also when finding the right primary care doctor for your medical needs. You may also want to check the doctor’s hospital affiliations, especially if you’re getting older. This can be accomplished by simply calling the doctor’s office. You’ll also want to know whether lab work or x-rays can be done onsite and if there are other doctors in the practice who can see you if your primary care doctor is booked. Take the time to make a list of questions to ask.

Finding the Right Specialist

There may come a time when you’ll need a doctor that’s more specialized than a primary care doctor. You may need a specialist or subspecialist. Your primary care doctor will let you know when more detailed care is needed. A suspicious mammogram or things like osteoarthritis and cancer typically require specialize care. If your primary care recommends a specialist, be sure to ask for two specialists. Ask the doctor why he’s giving you these names. Is it based on reputation, skill or convenience? It’s also wise to inquire as to whether or not the specialists communicate well with the primary care doctor. This way, you can determine if your care will be well-coordinated. It’s always best that your primary care doctor knows what’s going on.

Board certification is one of the best indicators of training and competency. A board-certified specialist has undergone a rigorous residency followed by additional training. You can check board certification at Specialists and subspecialties are recognized, including cardiology and surgery.

Practice makes perfect, so you’ll want to know how many patients the specialist has successfully treated. For example, if you need bypass surgery, you’ll want to know how many of these procedures the specialists have performed over the past two years on patients who are similar to you in age and conditions.

With legwork and due diligence, you can find Dr. Right, whether you need a primary care physician or specialist. Coupled with that, be sure to trust your instincts. Taking control of your medical care is always well worth the extra effort. Like choosing an attorney or accountant, choosing the right doctor is very important.