After you have scoured the Internet to help your relative find a potential new doctor—someone on their plan and with no obvious red flags—it’s time to get more specific. The doctor’s website may provide some descriptive information, but most likely, you’ll want a conversation.
Start by calling the doctor’s office to ask business and insurance questions. (Reserve your precious time with the doctor for questions focused on the doctor–patient relationship.)
- Insurance. Does the doctor “accept” Medicare? (This means they will not charge you more than Medicare allows.)
- Office hours. Does the doctor work Monday–Friday? If not, which days and what hours? Who would see your loved one if the doctor wasn’t in? When is the office open for phone calls?
- Appointments. What is the typical appointment length? Can appointments be made online? How long does it take to get an appointment, generally? What about emergency appointments?
- Lab results. Can these be accessed online? Will the doctor call, or a nurse?
- Telehealth. Do they do remote visits? What’s the procedure?
- Communication. Is email or text available? If by phone, when does the doctor return calls? How would they prefer to communicate with you, the family caregiver?
Ask if your loved one can book a 10-minute get-to-know-you visit with the doctor. Suggested interview questions:
- Why did you decide to become a doctor? What do you like best about practicing medicine?
- How would you describe the doctor–patient relationship? If we wanted to be your favorite patient, what would we do or not do?
- How do you work with family caregivers? How can I (family member) best be of service?
- When are you planning to retire? Any thoughts about how that transition will be handled?