Finding a doctor to take care of you can be a daunting task. If you have been diagnosed with a specific or serious medical condition, you may have been sent to a specialist by your usual doctor. Or maybe you just need an internist or a family physician to be "your doctor." In either case, how do you go about finding the best doctor for you? Here are some ideas.

What is Most Important to You in Your Doctor?

Like most things, you usually can't have everything (unless you have infinite resources, and even then...) so the first step is to try and prioritize the most important items on your list of what makes a doctor the best one for you. For example, your key priorities might be something like this:

1. In my network/covered by my plan

This is a key consideration for most of us. We need to keep our healthcare costs under control and this is a very important part of keeping your out of pocket payments as low as possible. Most doctors list the insurance plans they accept on their websites, or their front office staff can answer that question over the phone. A bit more good news to know: most university medical centers where highly specialized doctors practice will take just about any plan.

2. Located near me

We all have heard horror stories of veterans having to travel hours to see their doctor at the VA nearest to them. You don't want to travel a long way to see your doctor unless it is unavoidable (in the case of certain specialists), so finding a doctor near you might be high on your list of what makes a doctor the best one for you.

3. The right training or background

Do you need a pediatrician for your 3-year-old or someone to help manage your MS? You need to look for someone with strong training and the right specialty. Other considerations might include time in practice, where the doctor went to school, did their residency, and if they completed a fellowship, and do they have the correct board certifications. Good training in the right area can make a real difference to their ability to handle your healthcare.

4. Do I feel comfortable

This might not be on the top of everyone's list, but it is something to consider. If you don't feel comfortable telling your doctor everything (and we mean everything) you just aren't going to get the best care. Maybe you only want to see a male doc, or maybe only a female. It is best to be open-minded, but do consider if you can be very honest and open to with your doctor -- hiding information can slow a diagnosis and harm your health in the long run.

There are many other things to consider such as, do you like the office and the staff, does the doctor use the appropriate technology, is there someone in office that can translate for you if needed, and other concerns. The best way to understand your doctor and your comfort level is to go in and talk to them. An initial visit or interview can help you make that final decision about whether this is the right doctor for you.

Tools for Finding the Best Doctor

There are great online tools available to help you find a good doctor. Reviews of doctors and ratings can be useful and are easy to find on the web. There are also many doctor directories, and of course objective analytical sites like Expertscape. You may want to do it the old school way and pick up a book. One such as "The Patient's PlayBook" is a great option.

The best way to use the online information is to get some names of doctors in the right field -- say, an allergist to help you figure out why you break out in hives every spring -- and then apply your top 4 questions to the names you find. That combination of online information and an organized thought process by the person who knows your needs best (that's you!) can yield the outcome you want -- a great doctor.

Next Steps

Does this sound like a lot of work? It is, and it should be. Think about how long it took you to find your last plumber. Then think about how much more important it is to find a doctor.

If you are facing a life-threatening diagnosis, or just need a doctor to take care of you, you'll need to find a doctor you can really work with. As with most serious conditions, a second opinion might be a key part of finding the best doctor to treat you. This is where Expertscape can help, it is a free, fast, objective way to find the top experts in your area, or anywhere in the world.

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