Considerations for Older Adults when Choosing a New Doctor

Useful tips and questions worth asking when choosing a new doctor or medical practitioner.
Posted on January 8, 2016 by Gretchen Stelter, Michigan State University Extension

Don’t ever worry about changing doctors or hurting your medical staff’s feelings. They want you to be happy with your provider and know that if you find someone you have confidence in you will be more comfortable communicating with the physician.

The National Institute on Aging has suggested ways to find a doctor who meets your needs and Michigan State University Extension recommends considering these steps:

  • Decide what you are looking for in a doctor:  Do you care if your doctor is a man or woman? Does your physician have evening hours? Are they associated with a group or are they independent? What hospital does the doctor affiliate with? Create a pro and con list and then determine which qualities are most important to you.
  • Identify several possible doctors: Talk to friends, relatives, other professionals in the medical field or the staff at the Commission on Aging. They may have names of doctors that others have had a good experience with. Don’t just get a name of a physician. Ask questions such as, “What do you like about this doctor?  Will this doctor take the time to answer my questions?” If one particular doctor’s name comes up often, it may be worthwhile to call and make an appointment with him/her or the staff.
  • Check with your health care plan: If you belong to a managed care plan such as a HMO or PPO provider you may be required to choose a physician from the plan, or pay extra to see a doctor outside the network.
  • Learn more about the doctors you are considering: Once you have narrowed your list of new physicians, call the office staff. You can ask important questions about the doctor, office policies and payment procedures. It may be a good idea to set up an appointment to meet and talk to the doctor you are considering, keep in mind it is likely you will be charged for this visit. Then you can decide whether the two of you can work well together.
  • Make a choice: Once you choose a doctor, make an appointment. Generally, the first appointment will include your medical history and a physical exam. Make sure you bring your medical records from a former doctor and all your prescriptions. If you haven’t already met the doctor, when making your appointment explain you would like extra time with him/her to ask questions about the physicians practice.

When seeking a doctor, ask questions such as:

  • Do you have many older patients?
  • How do you feel about my family being involved in the care decisions?
  • May I call you or your staff when I have a question?

When making a decision about the doctor, ask yourself some questions like:

  • Did the doctor give me a chance to ask questions?
  • Was the doctor listening to me?
  • Can I understand what the doctor says?

The above information comes from the National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Health and the US Department of Health and Human Services.