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July 30, 2021, 4:59 a.m. EDT

Why finding a doctor has become so complicated

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Amy Zipkin

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“When possible, a doctor going out of practice can transfer patients to other physicians considered trustworthy ,”  Abraham said.

However, he noted, some doctors won’t feel that obligation and will instead just send a letter notifying patients of their expected departure. 

If you’re not certain you want to use the doctor yours recommended or your doctor left you high and dry, “ask around,” said Abraham.

Read : Are you talking too much about your aches and pains?

Abraham suggests relying on people who know you well and whom you trust. According to a survey by the Binary Foundation, an online reputation management company in suburban Washington, D.C., over half of all people rely on personal recommendations to find a physician.

Online doctor rating sites

You may also want to consult online ratings of physicians. 

Sites like the  National Institutes of Health  can help guide your search. The government site  Medicare.gov has information and ratings , too; its data doesn’t cover only Medicare patients.

Commercial sites like Heathgrades, Vitals and WebMD can be reliable resources, also. But, said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The  LeapFrog Group , a nonprofit health care watchdog based in Washington, D.C., “transparency is extremely important.”

Healthcare Bluebook measures cost and quality outcomes for patients using data from 7,000 employers who are its clients. It expects to reintroduce a free consumer-cost search tool in 2022.

And you’ll want to see whether the doctor you’re considering has any conflicts of interest. As the Next Avenue article, “ Open Payments: The Website Every Patient Should Know About ” explained, you can find out on the Open Payments area of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) site.

Also read: Up to your neck in medical debt? You probably live in a red state

Lisa Collier Cool, an author and journalist specializing in health care who recently moved, said her own physician search will include “checking the state licensing board to make sure the doctor hasn’t been sanctioned for anything. I will even Google the doctor’s name plus the word ‘malpractice’ to see if anything pops up.”

Once you know a doctor you think you might want, Sana Goldberg, a nurse and author of “How to Be a Patient: The Essential Guide to Navigating the World of Modern Medicine,” recommends scheduling an in-person or remote interview. Ask about how the practice is run, so you can set realistic expectations for your care. 

Be sure your doctor’s office provides you with a copy of your medical records so you can then give them to your new doctor.

“A practice shouldn’t send your records elsewhere,” said Goldberg.

This article is reprinted by permission from  , © 2021 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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