5 Things to Look for in a New Doctor

Family Caregiving Ideas | Finding a Doctor for Your Loved One

Finding a doctor poses an interesting challenge, especially for caregivers looking for a primary doctor for their loved one. Typically, if your loved one has a disability, cancer, chronic illness, or other debilitating condition, you don’t just see one doctor. For Mom, we spent so much time seeing specialists (urologist, neurologist, pulmonologist, etc) that tacking on another appointment with a general practitioner seemed like overkill, especially if she wasn’t experiencing general sickness like a cold or sore throat or anything.

When we moved to Austin, TX, however, Mom developed a rash on her back that we wanted to get seen by a doctor right away (and not an urgent care doctor). We did a little research and happened upon the doctor who would become our saving grace, but a long the way, we learned a handful of important lessons that might help your search for a doctor as well.

  1. They Accept Your Loved One’s Insurance: This one seems like a given, but it’s key to check and see that your doctor’s office accepts your insurance be it Medicare, Medicaid, or a private plan before you take your loved one to see them. Many doctor’s have stopped taking Medicare or Medicaid patients simply because of the paper load required to treat someone with that type of insurance as well as fluctuating reimbursement rates from the government. We actually have been asked to schedule appointments with Mom’s doctor at least 3 times a year to essentially make it worth the amount of time they spend on paperwork and other non-reimbursable tasks like working with Mom’s home health agency, writing orders, etc.
  2. Good Reviews: Yep, reviews. Just like you might for a restaurant or a movie, checking out doctor’s reviews online could greatly influence your decision. I initially chose Mom’s general practitioner because of the positive reviews I saw for her online from satisfied patients, this meant a lot to us. Some doctor review sites include Zocdoc.com, RateMDs.com, HealthGrades.com, and even Yelp.com has doctor reviews.
  3. Location: Anyone who cares for someone with a disability especially knows how difficult a simple trip out of the house can be. For Mom, we have to get her up, diaper changed, bedsore dressed, water drank and snack eaten before we even set the car up for her. “Setting the car up” includes getting pillows situated on her seat correctly, wheelchair with pedals in the trunk, and her boppy and neck pillow at the ready.This doesn’t include packing a backpack with necessities like a diaper and change of clothes just in case, as well as back up thickened water, her IDs, snacks, and even meds in case her appointment overlaps with the time in which she takes medicine. Oh and don’t forget her “in case she has a seizure” medicines and devices. This makes location super important. We needed a doctor that was close, so our entire appoint prep-attend-get home time didn’t take all day.
  4. The Type of Primary Doctor: There are many terms for primary doctors – primary care physicians, general practitioners, family doctors, etc. Those types of medical professionals provide a comprehensive array of medical care, while other primary doctors focus on specific age ranges. An internist, like what Mom’s doctor is, focuses care on adults and is more savvy in evaluating and diagnosing a broad range of conditions which afflict adults. A pediatrician does the same thing, except for children, and a geriatrician for older adults. Your own family doctor may not have the range of expertise an internist has to help your aging parent or older loved one. This is something to keep in mind as you continue your search.
  5. They Pass Your Interview: As a patient, you absolutely have the right to stop seeing your doctor if they are not providing the care, attention, and efficient treatment your loved one needs. Caregivers know that dealing with doctor’s offices and health insurance companies can be volcanically frustrating. You and your loved one need a reliable treating physician who knows the ins and outs of your loved one’s condition, their situation, and is in the business of truly helping them get better or at least, helping them maintain a quality of life despite their illness. If you want to leave your loved one’s doctor and are listed on their HIPAA release or have other legal jurisdiction (i.e. healthcare power of attorney) you should be able to request your loved one’s records, or have them sent to a new doctor.

Thanks for checking out these tips from Give a Care for finding the right doctor for your loved one. What was your experience finding a new doctor?

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