A move means finding a new doctor. I hate looking for doctors. Finding a doctor requires a lot of research. Usually I love research. However I like the kind of research I can do via the internet and I have found that doctor research requires more leg work. This week, I finally got off my butt and started working on this process. I discovered some tips that might make the process easier for someone else.
- Ask a friend: If you are lucky enough to be like me and have friends and family in your new location, ask around for referrals. I was particularly lucky since I have a local friend whose son is also on the spectrum. I put out requests via text, phone and Facebook and was given some enthusiastic recommendations. It is important to remember that just because your best friend loves a doctor, doesn’t mean that doctor’s style will work for your family. However, personal recommendations or warnings can give you some place to start. If you don’t have friends in the local area, try a co-worker or even a local Autism/Asperger’s Support group if you have found one. Your child’s new teachers and aids can also be a source.
- Start online: Even though you can’t find the perfect doctor from your armchair, you can narrow your choices. The most obvious place to start for those who have insurance is by finding someone who is covered by your insurance company. I thought this would be easy. I expected to log on to my insurance company’s website, look up a physician by location, and specialty and Ta-Da. No. After calling two separate doctor’s offices to see about setting up appointments, I found that they were not covered when they practiced in the location close to my home. It seems that they are only covered when practicing at a clinic that was covered. This made little logical sense to me, but I have learned that insurance logic is rarely Rachel’s logic.
- Keep researching online:Yes, I am a little lazy but I wanted to exhaust every option while sitting here listening to radiotuna before I had to load up two to four kids and start driving around an unfamiliar state. I found three sites where I could get a little “inside” information on the doctors.
- Health Grades is my favorite. It is free, requires no registration, provides a “grading” by patients, and tells you how many patients have completed the survey. You can search by specialty, location, and name. They tell you how long since graduation, board certifications, and contact information. The information seems to come from reputable sources.
- The American Board of Medical Specialties has a website that allows you to search specialties by state, name or just specialty. It does require registration, but the registration is free. However, I wonder if the list is complete. I found less physicians listed in the state then I would have expected and the doctor I eventually ended up choosing was not listed there, even though he is board certified.
- The Administrators in Medicine (Docboard.org) claims, “DocFinder remains the only combined database of all licensing jurisdictions that has its direct source of data from and controlled by state licensing boards and remains free of charge to the public. DocFinder contains the licensing background and disciplinary information of physicians and other health care practitioners in addition to physician profile information from states that have passed physician profile laws.” However, it does not list every state and my state wasn’t listed. As a result, I did not find it very helpful. It is non-profit though, which means that doctors aren’t buying a good rating from them.
- Office staff: This is very important to me. When I call, how easy is it to get a person? How long do I wait on hold? Are they helpful, friendly and easy-going? If I am going to bring a child with special needs to an office, I want to make sure that the staff are going to be helpful not demanding or difficult.
- Office environment: This is particularly important if your child has severe sensory challenges. A really great doctor might not be worth the effort if the waiting room environment triggers meltdowns. However, if they have a very helpful and understanding staff, you might check to see if you have options such as waiting in an exam room if the waiting room is too loud/active/bright. A short wait in the waiting room is also important to me since the longer I wait with Daniel the more agitated he gets from boredom, anxiety about the appointment, and being in a new environment.
- Time spent with the doctor: It goes without saying that I want the doctor to spend enough time with me that I feel heard. I am also interested to see how thorough he is with my son’s medical history. Does he familiarize himself with my son’s case via supplied records either before the appointment (some places will have you authorize them to access records ahead of time) or at the beginning of the appointment?
- Doctor Vibe: Ok, so it sounds corny to call it the “doctor vibe” but I was struggling for another word. When the doctor talks to me, does he or she talk at me or with me? Does he or she mention studies they have read recently and do they recommend the same for me? Is he or she up to date on what is going on in our medical and therapeutic world? Is he or she dismissive? Does he or she involve my son in the conversation? Does the doctor seem genuinely interested in the field of Developmental Pediatrics?
- Medically compatible: Some parents have found medication invaluable while other parents prefer to try every alternative before medicating or are opposed to pharmaceutical intervention on principle. Does the doctor have a view similar to your own regarding this?
- Outside help: Does the doctor and staff have referrals for support groups? Is he or she personally involved with any of these groups?
It may take several interviews before you find a doctor you believe can work with your family. However, it is always worth the effort. I was lucky. I found a doctor I believe will be a great fit on the second try. I am hopeful with his help, we are going to make some progress regarding Daniel’s meltdowns.
Any other tips for finding the right fit when looking for a doctor?