The Doc­tor is IN

Santa Fe New Mexican - Healthy Living - - HEALTH NEWS - — CAROLYN PAT­TEN

In to­day’s health­care de­liv­ery sys­tem, most in­sur­ance plans re­quire you to choose a “pri­mary care physi­cian” to be the go-to per­son for rou­tine med­i­cal care and to re­fer you to spe­cial­ists when you need them. When it’s time to choose a new doc, it may be help­ful to view your­self as an em­ployer who’s in­ter­view­ing can­di­dates for an im­por­tant job.

First steps

• To avoid high out-of-pocket costs, check your in­sur­ance com­pany’s web­site or book­let for a list of doc­tors within your net­work.

• If you’re on Medi­care, visit their Physi­cian Com­pare site to find a doc­tor who ac­cepts Medi­care.

• If you know a doc­tor, nurse or health care pro­fes­sional, ask for their rec­om­men­da­tions.

Pro­fes­sional stand­ing

• Look for board cer­ti­fi­ca­tion through the Amer­i­can Board of Med­i­cal Spe­cial­ties. This means a doc­tor has earned a med­i­cal de­gree from a qual­i­fied med­i­cal school, com­pleted three to seven years of ac­cred­ited res­i­dency train­ing, is li­censed by a state med­i­cal board and has passed one or more ex­ams ad­min­is­tered by a mem­ber of the ABMS. To main­tain the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, a doc­tor is ex­pected to par­tic­i­pate in con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion.

• Look for red flags such as mal­prac­tice claims and dis­ci­plinary ac­tions. Con­sumer Re­ports pro­vides a state-by-state list of links to re­sources for check­ing up on doc­tors.

Call the top can­di­dates

Both Con­sumer Re­ports and the Cen­ter for Ad­vanc­ing Health sug­gest ask­ing th­ese ques­tions be­fore mak­ing a first ap­point­ment: • Is the doc­tor tak­ing new pa­tients?

• How long will it take to get an ap­point­ment?

• How long do ap­point­ments last?

• Can you get lab work and x-rays done in the of­fice?

• If you are more com­fort­able speak­ing to a doc­tor in a lan­guage be­sides English, is there a doc­tor or nurse who speaks that lan­guage?

• Does the doc­tor of­fer evening or week­end ap­point­ments?

The first ap­point­ment

Ask your doc­tor:

• Who cov­ers your pa­tients when you are not avail­able?

• What spe­cial train­ing do you have in my spe­cific med­i­cal con­di­tions (such as di­a­betes, heart dis­ease, high blood pres­sure, HIV or other chronic dis­ease)?

• How do you view the doc­tor­pa­tient re­la­tion­ship — is it a “part­ner­ship” or do you ex­pect me to fol­low or­ders with­out ques­tion? The an­swer to this ques­tion can give you valu­able in­sight into how the doc­tor will act and re­act to your con­cerns.

De­ci­sion time

Af­ter this first ap­point­ment, ask your­self if the doc­tor and of­fice staff made you feel com­fort­able, spent enough time with you and an­swered your ques­tions clearly. Did you feel lis­tened to and re­spected? If not, you may want to keep look­ing.

LUIS SÁNCHEZ SATURNO

Bi­a­tris Bar­rera, left, and Rachel Good­man are shown at Pres­by­te­rian Es­pañola Hos­pi­tal. The na­tive New Mex­i­cans, both new physi­cians who trained at the Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­ico, de­cided to start their ca­reers in Es­pañola to help im­prove the care of...

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