Nurses like Cheryl Zimmerman, with the 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277) physician referral service, help patients understand their choices and identify the most important factors in choosing a doctor for themselves and their families.
"Different criteria are important to each person who calls for a referral," says Zimmerman. "There is no one 'blueprint' to finding a doctor with whom you feel comfortable and who you can work closely with as a team."
According to Zimmerman, these are the seven most common factors in choosing a primary care doctor:
- Location - Do you want your doctor to be located near your home or work?
- Insurance plan - Does your insurance plan require an in-network doctor?
- Gender - Are you more comfortable with a male or female doctor?
- Language - Do you need a doctor that speaks a language other than English?
- Experience - Do you have a preference between an older doctor with years of experience or a younger doctor with recent medical school knowledge?
- Hospital affiliation - Is it important which hospital you may be admitted to if the need arises?
- Practice style - Are you looking for a doctor with a particular philosophy of healing?
Choosing a primary care provider is one of the most important health care decisions you will make. They are the equivalent of your medical "home base." This is your personal physician, who is familiar with your health history and coordinates all your health care needs. Your primary care doctor will refer you to appropriate specialists and keep in contact with your specialists to ensure continuity of your care.
"It really does take a village when it comes to your health care - your primary care physician, specialists and you working together to ensure you achieve optimal health," says Zimmerman.
The nurses of 82-SHARP are the first point of contact for many patients, although doctor referrals aren't the only calls they take.
"A caller may want to know something very specific - whether a doctor is certified to do an FAA flight physical or if they offer weekend appointments," she says. "Regardless of the reason they call, we listen closely to their needs and strive to match them to a doctor who can help them achieve their best health."