Finding the Right Doctor
We all need care from time to time and finding that perfect doctor can be tough. Adding to the problem of finding a good doctor is price transparency. No one wants to go in to a doctor needing help for something that is not life threatening and come out with a medical bill that is life altering. However, this is reality and medical aids have only made this problem worse: It’s called mining for diagnostic codes. With how the system is currently set up, medical aids allow healthcare providers to exploit the system to get the max amount of money they can possibly extract. It’s not about what is fair or reasonable to the individual.
It is always a good idea to locate and line up a doctor before you need one, especially if you have young children as you will generally need the services of a doctor sooner or later with young children.
There are usually four common reasons for needing to find a new doctor:
1. You have to change doctors because of a move to a new suburb, town or city.
2. Your present doctor is moving or retiring.
3. Your doctor no longer accepts your current health plan; OR you or, more likely your employer, have changed health plans and your current doctor is not a participant in that plan.
4. You are no longer satisfied with your present doctor and wish to change.
Before you begin looking for a new doctor, check your with your medical aid or scheme to see if you are in a restricted network or a Preferred Provider coverage option. If it is network restricted, about all you can do is contact and talk to the medical aid and see if they can assign you to a new primary care general practitioner (GP) as most of these schemes do not let you select GP’s outside their group if you want them to pay for your medical needs.
If you have a preferred provider plan, then you should first check either the paper directory they sent to you or, if they list doctors on their web site, the plan’s web site to look for the list of physicians approved by your medical aid. These approved GP’s are approved in the sense that they have agreed to charge patients using a fee schedule provided by your medical scheme.
The company has fee agreements with these doctors and, if you use one of these GP’s, your co-payment (if applicable) will be lower. You may be allowed to still use any doctor you want and continue to be covered by the medical scheme, it is just that you may have to pay the doctor in cash, then claim back from your medical aid.
If your current doctor is moving (either out of town or to a new practice not on your medical aid’s list) or retiring you can ask your current doctor to suggest a new doctor for you. This, of course, assumes that you are happy with and trust your current doctor.
Similarly, if you are changing doctors because of a change in your medical scheme, you could show your present doctor the approved doctors on your new provider’s list and ask for his/her opinion on which ones you should consider.
If you are new in town or are not satisfied with your present doctor you could ask friends or co-workers for suggestions. If you have no one to turn to for referrals and advice, you can go on line and use one of the doctor rating or referral services.
Interestingly enough, using Google places search will list doctors in your area, some of whom might have citations (referrals and ratings). Once you have found one or more potential doctors from your medical scheme’s list you should call them to see if they are still taking new patients.
If they are, and you decide to use that doctor, you can then go to Google maps, Yahoo maps, Mapquest.com or any of the other on line map services, enter your address and the doctor’s address and receive, free, a map and driving directions from your home or office to the doctor’s rooms.
If you do not have medical aid or, if you have insurance and don’t care about saving on the co-payment you can check the yellow pages (print or on line version) to get a list of doctors in your area and their locations.
Another option would be to go to Google Local (Google.com, then click on more, click on even more, click on local and then enter the word doctor or general practitioner in the box for business and your city and state) to have Google give you a list of doctors in your area.
You can then click on individual doctors to get address, phone number, web site, email and directions. You can also call the local medical association for a list of doctors in the area. Unless you have friends or co-workers who are familiar with any of these doctors and can give you an opinion on them, about your only other option is to call and try to interview the doctor yourself to determine if this is a doctor you would be comfortable with.
This is not that uncommon as, unless the doctor is not taking new patients, the doctor is in business and would be looking for additional patients.
Another excellent idea is to refers to sites such as these: Doctors Cape Town
I have used the generic term doctor throughout this write-up to give directions for finding a general practitioner. If you are looking for a specialist simply substitute the specialty (urologist, cardiologist, etc.) for doctor and follow the directions I have described for finding a general practitioner.
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