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How to Choose a Doctor

Updated on August 21, 2016
Austinstar profile image

Lela has worked in medical laboratory sciences, as an MLT and then a ASCP, for over 30 years. Her B.A. is in journalism.

Finding the Right Doctor

Choosing a doctor isn't easy.
Choosing a doctor isn't easy. | Source

"What do you call a person that graduated in the lower 50% of medical school?"

"A Doctor."

How to Find a Doctor

Choosing a primary care physician or PCP is not easy to do. Searching by nearest general practitioner or family doctor is a good place to start, but you may also be limited by your insurance company.

Insurance companies have business relations with doctors and group practices and will not reimburse you for seeing a physician that is not approved and on their list of participating doctors. Therefore, your first step will be to call your insurance company and get a list of approved clinics and physicians.

After finding a nearby physician on the list, check with your state's medical board to find out if he or she holds a current license and does not have any complaints or sanctions registered with the board. Good doctors may get an occasional complaint and that is not a reason to suspect that they are bad doctors. Examine the complaint and see if you can tell if it has merit.

Finish your qualification search by finding out what medical school the doctor graduated from. If at all possible, find out what the doctor's graduating rank was. A dedicated and proficient doctor will have graduated in the top 50% of the class. Your chosen physician may have graduated with honors.

Another good place to check during your initial search for a doctor is Here you can look up doctors, dentists, hospitals and specialists that you have been referred to. I searched for my doctor and found that she had an 86% patient satisfaction rate and one action on her license requiring her to complete some advanced training. I knew about the incident and despite this incident I still consider her to be my PCP.

The last and final step is to meet with the doctor and find out if you are comfortable with the doctor's personality. The doctor must be compatible with your idea of a good doctor. You should be able to trust your doctor with your life, so be sure you are comfortable talking to and listening to your best health friend.

Doctor's offices should be friendly and cheerful.
Doctor's offices should be friendly and cheerful. | Source

How to Choose a Medical Specialist

A primary care physician may also be a specialist in general areas of medicine. Internal medicine is considered an all around medical specialty from which to choose a PCP.

Internal Medicine physicians choose to treat patients from the inside out. They specialize in what is going on inside the body that causes disease and illness. People with certain pre-existing conditions will want to start with an internal medicine doctor as a general physician.

As a body becomes more and more susceptible to aging and other diseases, your internal medicine PCP may refer you to other medical specialists for further treatment and consultation while still remaining on your side as PCP. They will follow and monitor your health for life if need be.

Licensed Doctors

Finding the Right Physician
Finding the Right Physician | Source

Choosing a Doctor for Your Condition

Treating a medical condition that requires a true board certified specialist will require a new search on how to find a doctor. Each doctor you see should be evaluated by the same criteria as in the initial search. Call you insurance company, find a specialist in your area and then check his or her credentials.


Cardiologist specialize in treating heart disease. If you have a heart attack, the first doctor to see you will be a cardiologist. A cardiologist may not be a heart surgeon, but a heart surgeon should be a cardiologist first.

Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome:

These doctors are sometimes referred to as Endocrinologists, which is a fancy way of saying that they deal with metabolic and hormonal issues. The principal condition that they treat is Diabetes (both types), Thyroid disease and the endocrine system.

Gastroenterology or Gastrologist:

Gastroenterologists focus on the digestive system. When your upset tummy is not just from eating a disagreeable food, you may need to see this specialist. They treat ulcers, lactose intolerance and colitis among other alimentary ailments.

Geriatric Medicine:

Getting old is a fact of life and a geriatric doctor specializes in issues of the aging body. There are new developments in the field of cognitive therapy and drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease and other debilitating effects of aging.

Nephrologists and Urologists:

These two types of specialists are frequently confused. A nephrologist treats diseases of the kidneys and does kidney dialysis and transplants. A urologist treats kidney stones, bladder problems and sometimes prostate problems. A urologist will refer a patient to a nephrologist if the situation warrants that call.


Brain tumors and spinal problems may result in the referral to a neurologist. Neuro surgeons are the ones that operate on the brain and brain stem. They also treat conditions like epilepsy and Parkinson's disease.


Bones and joints need lots of care. They are what gives us mobility and the ability to perform everyday tasks and sports activities. A good orthopedic doctor is worth their weight in gold.

Obstetrics and Gynecology:

Delivering babies and caring for women's issues is no small task and therefore require specialists to learn all they can about reproduction, child birth and cancers that affect women only.

Otolaryngotomist or Ear/Nose/Throat Doctors:

These specialists treat diseases and conditions of the ears, nose and throat. All of these areas of the body need special attention to keep them running at their very best. These areas are also the early warning system for other, more serious diseases.

Pain Medicine:

A specialist in pain medicine is trained to treat pain as a disease or legitimate health condition. The sensation of pain is subjective and therefore different for different people. Some people tolerate a great deal of pain, others do not. The trick is to find a treatment that works to alleviate pain without causing additional problems.


Specialists in the treatment of children and childhood diseases. They are the opposite of geriatric physicians.

Psychiatry and Psychology:

Psychiatrists are Medical Doctors and as such treat the physical manifestations of mental illness. Psychologists are generally PhD's that treat behavioral elements of mental health as an adjunct to a psychiatric treatment.

How to Find Alternative Medical Specialists

(click column header to sort results)
Are They Licensed?  
Recommended For:  
Varies by state
Stress relief, nervous disorders
Massage Therapist
Muscle problems
Spinal alignments
Nurse Practitioners
Common, easy to treat problems
Varies by state
Diet and Wellness
Varies by state
Vitamin deficiencies
Substance Abuse
Varies by state
Addiction to anything
Plastic Surgeon
Complicated or Delicate surgery

Doctor Ratings

There are many other specialists and sub specialists in the medical field. Then there are also pseudo doctors that practice alternative medicine and treatments. Almost anyone can hang out a "doctor" sign, so be careful choosing a physician and choose well Follow this advice and be diligent in trusting a health care practitioner. Always check them out!

Finding a Physician

Have you found the perfect doctor?

See results

© 2012 Lela


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    • SallyTX profile image

      Sally Branche 5 years ago from Only In Texas!

      Very complete and detailed information! Voted up and useful! ;D

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      I quit counting when my letters exceeded my name. It's all letters to me. Trying to figure out all the TLA's is like dunking my head into a bowl of alphabits. It just gets messy.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

      Great information and very useful, Lela. Thank you. I was not surprised to learn that M.D. does not stand for Medical Deity. Have to share that with some doctors I know. Just as I already knew Ph.D. does NOT stand for (you know what) Piled High and Deep.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      Awesome hub! Great information and such a good idea to check backgrounds - you don't want to find a quack! :)

    • TahoeDoc profile image

      TahoeDoc 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

      Wait…MD does not stand for "medical deity"??? Well, that's it then- I quit. LOL :)

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      The medical board will tell you where the doctor went to school and what kind of license they have. They will also tell you if any complaints have been filed. It's like the BBB for doctors.

      There is also a site somewhere on the web that performs as a physician referral site. I found it once and I'm sure a search would turn it up.

      Sorry to hear that your friend got a bad doctor. They do exist. Just like car mechanics there are good ones and bad ones.

    • lauramaryscott profile image

      lauramaryscott 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Austinstar, I had no idea I could check on a doctor with the medical board. Wilma worked at BSU a few office doors down from my office. A construction company was widening the road in front of her home. She came home one night walked across her lawn from her car to her door and stepped into a hole they had dug. She broke her foot and ankle. She had surgery and two more unsuccessful surgeries and then the doctor wanted to amputate her foot. She went to a different doctor and he saved her foot. When I needed surgery for my hernias I called Wilma to get the name of the doctor who almost caused her to lose her foot. When the hospital told me they had a group of doctors they used, I asked if Waters was one of them. The receptionist's response was, Oh, no. He isn't a member of our group. Her tone of voice confirmed she knew that doctor's reputation. I called the hospital and others I knew to learn about the credentials of the doctor scheduled to do my surgery but they would not tell me anything. I am glad to know I can, if I need to, contact the medical board. Thank you for informing us.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      D.O.'s are Osteopathic doctors that are trained to treat the whole body as one system. They also get extra training in nutrition and supplement therapy. I worked for 3 D.O.'s in Dallas for a couple of years and they just amazed me. The practiced miraculous medicine in my book.

      These doctors surpass M.D.'s in my book.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Wow! Excellent - you covered it all!

      Ok so I just call my parents and they tell me who to see:) lol. I have a D.O. And it's husband and wife team. My kids and Dave all go there - I love my docs!

      What I really like most is I truly feel as if she listens to ME and what I'm saying. I hate when I feel like I'm talking to air and my complaints are glossed over. I'm Hugh maintenance:) lol

      I did get some good info here - I didn't exactly know how people did usually find a good doc:). Now I know how to do a check up on the doc myself!

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      You're right! I forgot to add - always get a second opinion! Thanks.

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      With serious health conditions, it might be good to have the diagnosis verified with another medical specialist, even if you're happy with your regular practitioner. 'Trusting with life' could be a bad idea, really :)

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Thank you. I am always amazed at the number of people that never check out their doctor's credentials or graduation rank. Some never switch doctors even if they really don't like the initial visit with a doctor.

      Hey everyone - we are PAYING them to work for us. It should be no different than researching any other professional service. M.D. does not stand for 'medical deity'.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Good job....lots of helpful background information.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.