Choosing the Right Doctor for You

Taking the time to find “Dr. Right” is one of the most important investments you can make.

Man and doctor shaking handsWe’ve all heard about the importance of the doctor/patient relationship, often described as the cornerstone of quality medical care.

“In fact, the stronger that relationship, the better your chances of receiving the right care at the right time in the right way,” says Tami Minnier, vice president of UPMC’s Donald J. Wolff, Jr. Center for Quality Improvement and Innovation. “At UPMC, our goal is to help you develop a long-term partnership in which your doctor is your number one health care champion.”

According to a 2010 survey by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, most of us are very satisfied with our physicians. It usually takes something major — like moving to a new area, changing medical insurance, or being diagnosed with a serious condition — to prompt us to look for a new doctor.

“If you’re in the process of changing doctors, there are some exciting new options to consider,” says Ms. Minnier. “For example, UPMC’s Health Plan is working with a growing number of primary care physicians to implement patient-centered medical homes in their practices.” In this medical model, your family doctor becomes the hub for all your care by linking you to a collaborative team of medical professionals — from physician assistants to specialists.

Medical homes are designed to ensure that you receive appropriate and comprehensive care over your entire lifetime, including preventive health care, treatment for acute or chronic illness, and assistance with end-of-life care. Studies show that medical homes are resulting in improved care, access, and communication between patients and their “medical team” — as well as improved quality, safety, and cost of care.

When searching for “Dr. Right,” here are five helpful tips to locate the best match:

Determine what’s important to you

“Finding the ‘right’ doctor often involves personal preferences apart from a physician’s skills or qualifications,” says Ms. Minnier. “For example, are you more comfortable with a doctor of your gender? Is a primary care physician right for you, or do you have a medical condition that requires treatment by a specialist? And if easy access is a concern, do you need a doctor located close to your home or workplace?”

Get the opinion of people you trust

“Begin your search by asking your circle of family, friends, and co-workers about the positive experiences they’ve had,” she advises. “If you’re moving, or seeking a specialist, your current doctor also can be an excellent referral source.”

Do some homework

“There are a number of credible online resources, including UPMC’s Find A Doctor, with information on more than 5,000 physicians, that allow you to confirm a physician’s medical credentials, board certifications, and specialties,” says Ms. Minnier. You also can check with the state medical board at In general, avoid “doctor ranking” sites, which are unregulated and difficult to verify for accuracy.

At UPMC, a variety of tools are used to assess physician quality, including patient satisfaction surveys. “We literally review thousands of surveys monthly, which provide us with invaluable insights and feedback,” says Ms. Minnier.

Verify your doctor’s insurance plans and hospital affiliations

“Most practices accept a variety of insurance plans, but be sure yours is among them,” advises Ms. Minnier. “And should you ever require hospitalization or special tests, it’s important that your doctor be affiliated with a hospital you know and trust.”

Call for an appointment

“Bring a written set of questions covering your concerns and expectations. When your visit is over, evaluate the experience,” suggests Ms. Minnier. “Was it easy to get an appointment? Were you treated with respect by both the doctor and the staff? If your answers are positive, you’re on the right path to a doctor/patient relationship characterized by quality care, compassion, and open communication.”

For more information, or to schedule an appointment with a UPMC-affiliated physician, visit UPMC’s Find A Doctor, or call 1-800-533-UPMC (8762).

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For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

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