Robin Cruson
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You might not think about a doctor until you need one.  But a relationship with a primary care physician who serves as your first point of contact might help you live a healthier life.

Scientific American reports studies that link lower mortality rates, fewer hospital visits, and better health outcomes to primary care provider access.

A primary care provider is a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician's assistant who you see for general health matter and who focuses on care of the whole person.  If you've never had a primary care provider or if your doctor moved or retired, you might be in need of one.  So to find a doctor, where do you start?  How do you narrow down your options?


Ask Around

Chandra Torgerson, Chief Nursing Officer for UnitedHealthcare, says you can ask family and friends if they like and trust their doctor.  You can even ask to interview a doctor to see if she or he is a good fit for you.  That bears repeating...  YES, you can interview the doctor yourself and all you have to do is make an appointment.  You will want to tell them that you're not seeing the doctor for a medical consult, but rather you are "shopping" doctors and want to meet them before you decide.  The National Institute on Aging (NIA) says you can ask for recommendations from other health professionals you see or from local health facilities like hospitals or medical schools.


Search Your Network

Your insurer is another resource for finding a doctor.  You can search your plan's network.  Doctors in an insurer's network contract with the insurer and agree to accept the insurer's payment rates as compensation.  If you go outside your plan's network, you may pay more out of pocket.  Some insurers offer robust search tools that let you narrow down doctors by location, whether they are accepting new patients, as well as what languages they speak.  Please note that each insurer is different in what information about the doctor they provide so please research carefully.

You can also search for doctors using Medicare's Physician Compare.  This tool provides information about primary care providers, specialists, hospitals, and more.  Importantly, it lets you easily find providers who accept Medicare.  The U.S. Health and Human Services Department also offers which lets you search for doctors.


Do Your Homework

Once you have landed on a name or two, you can call the doctor to find out about appointment cancellation and payment policies and after-hours access.  You may also ask who covers for the doctor if he or she is out of the office.  Medline Plus, a National Institutes of Health web site, also suggests asking about office policies on returning calls and using email.  If you're worried about choosing the right doctor, you can bring someone with you to meet and interview each of your choices.  If you are a caregiver, you can tag along with your loved one.

You might want to research a doctor's background.  Web sites like the American Board of Medical Specialties Certification Matters and the American Medical Association of Doctor Finder are good resources.  The site allows you to search for a doctor's certification or educational background.  You may also be able to learn about complaints filed against doctors through your state medical board.


For more information , explore, or contact the Medicare Help Line 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.  Please contact Cruson Insurance Agency if you have any questions.

The Cruson Insurance Agency is your single source for all of your insurance needs. Whether you're looking for health coverage, Medicare plans, life insurance, final expense plans, temporary health coverage for new employees or in between jobs, vision, dental, hearing and even pet insurance; we can help you find the coverage that best suits your needs. - Contact Robin at  
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