U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Choosing a Doctor: Quick tips

When you choose a doctor for yourself or a loved one, make sure to choose a primary care doctor you can trust. A primary care doctor can:

  • Help you make important decisions, like which screening tests and shots to get
  • Treat many health problems
  • Refer you to a specialist when you need more help with a specific health issue

When you are choosing a doctor, look for someone who:

  • Treats you with respect
  • Listens to your opinions and concerns
  • Encourages you to ask questions
  • Explains things in ways you can understand

When you and your doctor work together as a team, you’ll get better health care. Try the following tips to find a doctor who’s right for you.

Ask for recommendations from people you know.

Getting a reference from someone you know and trust is a great way to find a doctor.

  • Ask friends, family members, neighbors, or coworkers if they have a doctor they like.
  • If you are looking for a new doctor because yours is retiring or moving, ask your current doctor for a recommendation.

Check with your insurance company.

If you have health insurance, you may need to choose a doctor in their network. Some plans may let you choose a doctor outside the network if you pay a bigger share of your health care costs.

  • Call your insurance company and ask for a list of local doctors who take your insurance plan.
  • See if your insurance company has a Web site you can use to search for a local doctor who accepts your plan.

If you don’t have health insurance, you’ll have to pay for health care out of pocket, which can be very expensive. For help finding insurance, visit https://www.healthcare.gov/.

Call your top choices.

Make a list of the doctors you have in mind. Call their offices to ask questions and learn more about them. The answers to the following questions may help you make a decision:

  • Is the doctor taking new patients?
  • How long will it take to get an appointment?
  • How long do appointments usually last?
  • Is the doctor part of a group practice? Who are the other doctors?
  • Who will see you if the doctor isn’t available?
  • Which hospital does the doctor use?
  • Can you get lab work and x-rays done in the office?
  • What is the office’s cancellation policy?
  • If you have a medical condition, does the doctor have experience treating it?
  • If you are more comfortable speaking to a doctor in a language besides English, is there a doctor or nurse who speaks that language?
  • Does the doctor offer evening or weekend appointments?

Ask yourself these questions after the first appointment.

Did the doctor and office staff:

  • Make you feel comfortable during your appointment
  • Spend enough time with you
  • Give you a chance to ask questions
  • Answer your questions clearly

If you answer “no” to any of these questions, you may want to keep looking.

Choosing a Doctor: Quick tips

Content last updated on:
September 30, 2014