5 questions to ask before seeing a doctor
Finding the right doctor for you or your family doesn’t have to be a daunting task if you know what to ask before committing to an appointment.
“You may not even know these questions are important to you, but use this as a checklist when you call a new doctor for an appointment to avoid jumping from doctor to doctor,” recommends Janet Gradle, MSN, an instructor in the family nurse practitioner program at the University of Phoenix Main Campus.
She suggests these five questions:
Will I see the same doctor at every appointment?
You may find it unappealing to rotate among different doctors at a group practice or to be seen by your primary physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner. “If you want to see the same doctor every time you come into the office, then ask this question,” emphasizes Gradle, who formerly owned a certified nurse practitioner practice in Apache Junction, Arizona.
Do you accept my health insurance and process the claims?
“Ask up front how the financial payments work,” Gradle says. Otherwise, a “surprise” bill may leave you fumbling for your wallet upon checkout. Also, the office may not process insurance claims, requiring you to immediately pay the full amount and then personally take care of the insurance paperwork for reimbursement.
Can I get help after office hours?
Find out whether the doctor or a nurse will answer your time-sensitive questions that day, Gradle advises. It’s possible the message you left with the after-hours calling service will remain unanswered until regular business hours, she notes. It’s also a good idea to ask which after-hours emergency or urgent care facilities the doctor recommends in case you can’t wait for a return call.
Do you do routine X-rays and lab work in-house?
Some doctors’ offices provide these services only during certain hours, if at all. Many times, medical practices pay outside companies for these services, Gradle points out. “You’ll at least want to know whether there is somewhere close by you can go, especially if the patient is an [older] adult, has special needs or maybe needs frequent labs for a health issue like diabetes.”
What’s your appointment scheduling policy?
Staff should be able to tell you whether you’ll be charged if you’re a no-show or arrive 10 to 15 minutes past the scheduled appointment. "Be an informed customer,” Gradle says, “before you get charged."