Finding new doctors when you move is a challenge
Whether you're moving across town or across the country, chances are you will be in the market for new health care providers, from primary care to dental care to eye care. Why does this process seem so daunting for many of us?
I think it's because our relationships with our doctors are very personal, almost intimate. They know your story, and now you're going to have to tell your story to someone new. (It sounds almost like dating, doesn't it?)
There are several ways to make the process of transitioning to new medical providers easier. Here are my tips:
1) Look for your new providers before you move. A good place to start is with your current doctors -- they may have colleagues they are willing to recommend. If they can't recommend an individual, they may give you some advice on what to look for in terms of education, experience and board certifications. This is particularly important if you have a complicated medical history.
2) Make sure your insurance coverage will move with you. Medicare policies, in particular, vary by state.
3) Start with your insurance company's website to search for health care providers in your new area who are taking new patients. Some websites offer star ratings based on patients' feedback. It's very important to call and confirm a provider is in your insurance network and that they are located where the website says.
Do your due diligence before booking an appointment. How far out do you have to book appointments? Will you be seen by an doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant? Do they offer telehealth appointments? Where does the doctor have hospital privileges, and does that hospital take your insurance?
3) Ask your new neighbors, either over the back fence or online. If the same names keep coming up, it is usually a good sign. Healthgrades is a Colorado-based tech company that says it connects providers and people. The results can be iffy, but it will at least tell you what kind of insurance the doctors take and how other patients rate their skill and bedside manner.
Neighborhood apps like Nextdoor have lots of recommendations as well as some reports of bad experiences. You can search Nextdoor for previous recommendations, or post a new request to your area. Recently, an acquaintance chose her new dentist based on a Nextdoor post from a neighbor whose daughter found excellent and less costly care from a particular provider.
If you're still struggling with finding new health care providers, you might enlist a local patient advocate. Patient advocates, who typically have a nursing background, should have deep knowledge of available care, or know how to research it. There's usually an hourly fee, but you may find it a small price to pay for your peace of mind, knowing you have the right doctor for you.
4) Once you've made your choice, try to get your medical records transferred, especially if you're in the middle of a treatment, such as physical therapy or cancer therapy. Some doctors' offices will handle this transferral for you; others will ask you to obtain the records. This is where electronic health records (EHR) come in handy. You can sign into your health records and print what your new doctor needs.
5) Be sure to include your current and former prescriptions and vaccination record in the records you give your new doctor.
6) Give your new medical relationships time to develop (again, just like dating!). It may take a few appointments for you to feel comfortable. Your doctor may not always tell you what you want to hear, but they will tell you what you need to hear.
That said, if you find yourself lacking confidence in your doctor or getting poor customer service, don't be afraid to switch. Your relationships with your health care providers are too important.
• Teri Dreher is a board-certified patient advocate. A critical care nurse for 30+ years, she is founder of NShore Patient Advocates (www.NorthShoreRN.com). She is offering a free, 30-minute phone consultation by calling (312) 788-2640 to make an appointment.