Finding a New Provider
When it's time to leave your pediatrician behind, how do you go about finding a new doctor? First, decide which of the following best describes your personal situation:
1. You have private insurance (usually a benefit provided by your employer or, if you are a full time student you may still be covered by insurance from a working parent). Most employers provide information about insurance coverage and participating doctor's offices. If you don't have this information, ask your human resources staff or request it directly from your insurance carrier. Your insurance card may also list a Web site or phone number to call if you aren't sure.
2. You do not have any medical insurance coverage of any kind. Being uninsured doesn't mean you have to go without medical care. There are many community medical clinics that offer comprehensive medical services, even though you aren't insured. You can also call other area doctors' offices to find out if they accept uninsured (or partially insured) patients.
3. You are covered by Medicaid. Our community medical clinics list includes local Medicare/Medicaid providers. You can also visit the Medicaid Web site for the latest directory of doctors in your area who are accepting patients.
Making the Switch
Once you've gotten a list of potential doctors who fit your situation, it's time to decide which office will best serve your needs. Parents, your pediatrician, your school health office if you are a student and even friends are good sources of recommendations. Asking yourself some practical questions can also help you find the right fit.
1. Where is the office? You are most likely responsible for getting yourself to and from your doctor's office. Consider which offices are most convenient to where you live or work.
2. What services are offered? Make sure the office provides what you need (i.e., routine medical care, treatment for a chronic condition or an OB-GYN for women's health).
3. What are the office hours? Many offices are closed during lunch hours. Some offices have early morning, evening or Saturday hours, which might make it more convenient for you. If hours are a priority for your work, school or child care schedule, be sure to ask.
4. Is there a sliding fee scale for patients with no or low income? A sliding scale means the amount you pay for services is based on your income. If this is important to you, choose an office that offers this and ask how it works.
5. Which hospital does the doctor use? Make sure you are comfortable going there if the need should arise.
6. For appointments, about how long will it be before you are seen? Is it possible to be seen the same day if you have an urgent need?
7. Are walk-ins accepted or must you make an appointment?
8. What is the policy on late arrivals, no show/no call, cancellations and rescheduling?
9. What do you do for after-hours or weekend needs?
10. Do they speak your primary language and/or do they provide interpreters?
Once you've chosen your new doctor, ask the doctor's office if they will coordinate the transfer of your medical records for you. Ask if there is anything you need to do to help with the process.