Massachusetts Medical Society: How to Choose a Doctor That is Right For You

How to Choose a Doctor That is Right For You

Choosing a new physician is often a difficult decision to make.

It's wise to research not only the physician’s education, professional background and qualifications, but where he or she practices, the office environment, communications style and the recommendations of friends and relatives.

Gathering Information

  • One of the best places to start your search is by asking your family and friends for their recommendations.      
  • If you already have a primary care physician and are looking for a specialist, it is usually wise to ask your primary care physician for a recommendation. Likewise, if you only have a specialist, you should ask whom they would recommend for a primary care physician. 
  • Patients may wish to contact the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine (BORIM) to obtain “Physician Profile” information for the names of the physicians you are considering. The BORIM will provide the information if you:      
  • Visit the Board's Physician Profile website and enter the physician’s name.      
  • Write to the Board at:
    200 Harvard Mill Square, Suite 330
    Wakefield, MA 01880
  • Call (781) 876-8200 or (800) 377-0550

    The information on the physician that you will obtain from the BORIM will include:

    • The educational background, training and specialty board certification of the physician;     
    • A list of insurance companies with which she/he is affiliated; (Since this insurance list is not updated frequently, checking with the insurer may be more helpful.)  
    • Whether she/he has had any disciplinary actions taken against her/him (e.g., criminal convictions, pleas, admissions, hospital disciplinary actions, and BORIM disciplinary actions);      
    • If she/he (or her/his professional liability insurer) has made any payments on a malpractice claim.

    Please remember that it is important to review your insurer’s provider directory to determine if the physicians you are considering are part of the insurer’s network of physicians. The provider directory will also usually include information such as the type of physician practice, location and hours of physicians’ offices, languages spoken, and whether they are accepting new patients. You should be sure to call the physician’s office to confirm that the information is current and accurate.

    Evaluating Your Options

    Once you’ve gathered your data, it’s now time to consider what are the most important attributes for YOU.

    Some things to consider (this is not meant to be a comprehensive list):

    1. Do you want a physician close to your home or your place of work?      
    2. Which are the hospitals where she/he has admitting privileges?
    3. What is the communication style of the physician and office staff (listening to your questions and responding with adequate answers, how they communicate test results and other important information)?       
    4. What is the educational background of the physician, and is she/he board certified in a specialty?      
    5. If you have a complicated medical condition, does the physician treat other patients with similar conditions/specialize in your condition?      
    6. What are the covering arrangements when your doctor is unavailable or on vacation?       
    7. Does the office keep open appointment times for urgent issues?      
    8. Do non-physicians, such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners, participate in your care and is your care reviewed by your physician?      
    9. When you visit the physician’s office did you notice: a clean and comfortable office environment; a pleasant staff; courteous treatment of patients?      
    10. Does the physician speak your language fluently, or does he/she use interpreter and translation services?      
    11. Is the physician office on a public transportation route, such as the bus or subway?      
    12. Is the office easily accessible (e.g., adequate parking, elevators, ramps)?

    In addition, you might contact the physician’s office to schedule an appointment to meet the physician to get a better feeling if she/he is the right choice for you. (This is especially important when choosing your primary care physician or obstetrician/gynecologist.)

    Making the Decision

    Once your research is completed, you should consider all of the information that you have collected. You may also want to review the information with a family member or a close friend to get their thoughts and comments. Don’t hesitate to call the physician’s office with any additional questions.  

    The information provided is intended for use as a general reference guide only.  It is necessarily selective and lists only some of the issues you may wish to consider when selecting a physician.  It does not constitute legal advice.  

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