How to find the best doctor?

A great way to find out who the best doctors are is to learn who respected doctors themselves see and send their families to see. But this is not so easy unless you are an ”insider” like me having worked as a hospital executive with physician colleagues to ask.

So here is a suggested strategy:

1. Find a well qualified primary care physician (PCP). Usually a physician in family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, or pediatrics who is a patient’s first contact for routine, outpatient health care. (Start with personal recommendations than use Google to get more information.)

2. “Best Doctor” lists are useful but learn to differentiate between lists which are independent publications from ones where physicians can “pay to play.” (can usually be found in an appendix.)

3. Your PCP should be Board Certified. Many specialties now require periodic Maintenance of Certification, beyond initial certification.

4. Look for a PCP who has admitting privileges at a nearby community hospital and a regional teaching hospital. Better yet a physician with a medical school faculty appointment who teaches medical students and residents.

5. Ask if your PCP will participate in managing your care if you are admitted to the hospital, or transfer your care off to a “hospitalist.”

6. Takes your insurance and is not “out-of-network.” And has a an in-network panel for specialist referrals.

7. Uses your preferred medical decision making style – e.g., physician led, shared patient/ doctor discussion.

8. Has convenient office hours and off-hours phone/ email availability or back-up.

9. Listens to you and does not appear to be preoccupied or rushed. And does not continually get interrupted or take phone calls during your visit.

10. Answers your questions clearly in an evidenced-based way.

11. Uses an Electronic Medical Record to share information with your other clinicians, and with a patient portal so you can easily access your medical record.

12. Orders diagnostic test thoughtfully (not defensively) and prescribes antibiotics carefully (and not simply because you ask).

13. Washes his or her hands in front of you every time and is not insulted if you ask “Doctor, Did You Wash Your Hands? ™”


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Note: This blog shares general information about understanding and navigating the health care system. For specific medical advice about your own problems, issues and options talk to your personal physician.


Jonathan M. Metsch, Dr.P.H.

Clinical Professor, Preventive Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; Adjunct Professor, Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College, C.U.N.Y.; Adjunct Professor, Rutgers Schools of Public Health & Public Affairs and Administration

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