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Many Americans consider themselves fortunate enough to like and respect their healthcare providers. But doctors retire. Health organizations change parent companies. Sometimes patients need more specialized care than their General Practitioner can provide. In these instances, people begin their search for new providers.

If you are in one of these familiar situations and on the hunt for a new doctor, provider, or specialist, there are a few things to consider. You don’t want to rush a decision now and be faced with having to change providers again. Before you take the leap and begin transferring your medical history to a new office, here are three things to think about before changing doctors.

Find a Doctor You Like

In a perfect scenario, you want to find a doctor you like. And because who you like is based on personal preferences, you’ll need to weigh your must-have criteria. Some patients prefer kind bedside manners. Others need to verify credentials and specialty experience. Before you can change doctors, you will want to create a list of what it is you like about your current or outgoing providers.

Accepting New Patients
Once you’ve identified a new doctor, you’ll need to verify if this particular doctor is, in fact, accepting new patients. There is no point in pursuing the next steps, to transfer medical records or to update your information if the doctor you found is at full capacity. The best way to really know for sure is to call the office directly and explain your situation. In some cases, even if a provider isn’t openly accepting new patients, he or she may make an exception for you or your family, based on your particular circumstance.

Understands Your Medical History
It’s important that as a patient, you remain your own advocate for health. Understanding your complex medical needs or history will help you find a new provider who can equally tend to your specific conditions. There are online resources that outline a provider’s specialties if there are any. But you can also arrange for a visit to meet this potential new provider in person and have a conversation about your care. You might also be able to arrange a virtual call or phone call to have these discussions, as well. And connecting with a provider before officially changing doctors can provide added reinforcement that you’re making the best decision and are selecting a professional who can be an advocate with you.

Makes You Feel Comfortable
You don’t want to have a provider who makes you uncomfortable. As a patient, you should always feel welcomed and never hesitate to ask questions about your health, care, or treatment options. If you have reservations about a doctor or feel discouraged or unimportant in any way, consider moving on to the next doctor on your new provider list. Even if you don’t have current medical concerns, you don’t want to face a future health condition with a provider with whom you’re not completely comfortable.

Leverage the Connections You Have

The challenge of changing doctors might seem like a tall order. But you don’t have to start from ground zero. You are currently working with a doctor and maybe even an entire network of professionals who can help point your efforts in the best direction. Using the connections you already have can make finding a new healthcare provider that much easier.

Ask for Doctor Referrals
If you have an opportunity to connect with your outgoing provider to ask for a referral, do so. If your doctor is retiring or planning a transition to another organization, he or she can be a valuable resource for pointing you in the direction of a great replacement provider. And in some cases, your existing doctor may be able to be your doctor ongoing if you’re able to change networks with him or her.

Identify Any Additional Care Locations
If you’re unable to connect with your outgoing doctor directly, there may be other members of your current healthcare organization who can help with direction and referrals. Call your doctor’s office first and let them know you’re interested in inquiring about referrals. You can also look online for participating doctors within the same hospital organization or sister care locations.

Friends & Family Referrals
To help you with identifying new doctors to consider, don’t be afraid to solicit the advice of friends and family. Those around you may be helpful in steering you clear of some doctors and pointing you in the direction of others. Everyone’s needs and experiences will be different. So, you may not want to discount any one doctor until you’ve vetted the professional yourself. But endorsing experiences from friends and family can help you carve out a list of healthcare providers to call on first.

Provider Networks, Transferring Records & Additional Costs

There may be costs and procedural steps associated with changing doctors. These will also need to be considered before you make your healthcare professional decisions.

Transferring Medical Records
Before you can change doctors, you’ll want to make sure you have complete access and control of your medical records. Your current physician may have paperwork to submit, requesting a transfer of information to a new doctor. But if you haven’t selected your new provider yet, you’ll still want to make the call to ensure you have everything required to transfer documents, scans, and past visits when you’re ready.

In-Network vs. Out of Network Providers
Another consideration that could be costly if you change doctors in the wrong direction is verifying in-network versus out of network providers. Based on your current health insurance plan, you might be restricted by provider networks. This means if you choose a healthcare provider outside of that designated network, you could face those expenses entirely out of pocket. Check with your insurance plan and try to coordinate your doctors with those that align with the insurance company’s partner networks.

If You Need Help Choosing a Plan
If you have yet to select your health insurance plan for 2021, you’re running out of time. The deadline to enroll during this open enrollment is December 15th. You can browse with W3LL today to determine your best health insurance options, available premium tax credits, and provider networks associated with those plans available to you. Identifying and enrolling in a plan will help you then narrow your focus on changing doctors.

Don’t be afraid to tap into the countless resources you have available to you as you consider changing doctors. Ask for referrals from your current professionals. Inquire about the experiences that others have had with area providers. And browse with W3LL today to make your 2021 health insurance enrollment selections.

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