For most women, just the thought of having to move to a new town can cause instant panic. It’s not the concept of packing and unpacking that generates such an anxious reaction, it’s those other two unavoidable tasks: finding a new hair stylist (essential!) and finding a good gynecologist (beyond essential!).
Relocation or not, there are plenty of other life events that can initiate a hunt for a new gyno. New jobs bring new benefits from new insurance carriers. Existing carriers change their coverage. Doctors retire.
No matter the reason, a search for a new doctor can be tricky and awkward. Just how do you go about finding that one special professional to share your most intimate health issues with?
Here are three key steps to make your quest easier.
Step One: Make a List
Finding a good gyno starts with defining the word "good" and every woman’s definition is based on what’s personally important to her healthcare experience. Competence alone is rarely “good” enough. Most of us prefer competent physicians who also demonstrate strong listening skills and deliver care with compassion and respect.
Before beginning your search, define "good" by making a list of the traits that are important to you in a gynecologist. For starters, your list might include the 3 Es:
- Education. When and where training was received and whether a physician is board-certified.
- Experience. How long a physician has been practicing.
- Expertise. Areas in which a physician specializes; for instance, prenatal care, obstetrics, infertility, menopause, etc. Your phase of life will help determine what specialties matter most to you.
Other factors worth considering:
- Gender. Are you more comfortable with a female or male physician, or either?
- Insurance. Your plan may limit your visits to affiliated physicians, or it may allow you to visit non-affiliated physicians but with greater out-of-pocket costs.
- Hospitals. Here again, affiliated hospitals and other medical facilities may be determined by your health plan. If so, you likely will want a physician who has practicing privileges at those hospitals.
- Location. Depending on how often you require physician visits, location could be a concern. Are offices easy to get to? Is drive time excessive or manageable? Is public transportation or parking inconvenient or costly?
- Philosophy. When it comes to topics such as birth control and alternative therapies, finding a physician who shares your views will increase your chances of being a satisfied patient.
Step Two: Make the Rounds
With your list in mind, tap into the grapevine. Start with family, friends, even trusted co-workers and ask for referrals. You can also ask other healthcare providers such as your family doctor or your child’s pediatrician for their recommendations. If the same names resurface, chances are good you have a shortlist of professionals with solid reputations.
If you are new to an area, call a local hospital and ask to speak with a head nurse in obstetrics/labor and delivery. Nurses see lots of physicians in action and under a variety of circumstances and pressures so ask for two or three referrals. Or call the chief resident at a teaching hospital to also ask for referrals.
Step Three: Make Sure With Research
The physicians on your shortlist should be licensed and practicing in good standing. To be sure, check with your state medical board or visit the website of the American Medical Association. It’s likely your health insurance provider also offers background information on individual practitioners.
If you still aren’t certain whether a gyno is a good match for you, schedule an appointment to interview him or her. Many doctors welcome the opportunity, allowing you to ask questions and get a feel for the kind of care and communications you can expect.
This also gives you the chance to scrutinize the office environment and its staff. Both are important components that contribute to your ultimate satisfaction.
Paging Dr. Right
Having a physician with whom you’re comfortable seeing is truly an important objective. Research has shown that patients who have good relationships with their doctors tend to be more satisfied with their care and consequently experience better results.*
It may take more than one visit for you and your new doctor to establish a comfortable relationship. But if it doesn’t happen, trust your instincts and find another. You should never feel obligated to continue seeing any physician or healthcare provider if you are uneasy.
Once you have found Dr. Right, spread the word. It might be just the referral someone else out there is looking for.
*U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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