If I were a betting girl, I would bet that every person under the age of 30 who is living with an invisible illness has experienced medical gaslighting at least once. Trying to find a new doctor that is both compassionate and understanding can feel like a never ending battle.
I have spent far too many hours in waiting rooms, hopeful that I will finally get some answers and support, only to end up crying alone in my car 2 hours later after being dismissed once again.
Having providers ignore your very real symptoms and pain is invalidating, demeaning, expensive, and frankly, just exhausting.
Have you ever really thought about how much energy goes into scheduling a new doctors appointment?
Make sure this doctor is covered by insurance ~ 10 minutes
Find the phone number for the office ~ 5 minutes
If I’m working or have class, I have to find a good time to call that doesn’t interfere with my schedule
Wait on hold before being connected ~ 4 minutes
Go over all information with the receptionist and schedule ~ 20 minutes
Calling all various other offices to have medical records sent over ~ 1 hour (on a good day)
Request off of work or let professors know I will be missing class if I can’t find a magical appointment time that isn’t in the middle of the day (they rarely exist) ~ 15 minutes
Drive an extended period of time to this specialist, because they are out of the immediate area ~ 1 hour
Wait times + initial visit ~ at least 2 hours
If I’m very lucky, they might take me seriously. If not, then I get to drive home and be faced with the task of starting all over again.
Oh, and I also now have the added task of catching up with everything I missed while at this appointment.
So it is safe to say that scheduling doctors appointments is one of my very least favorite tasks, and for good reason. No one enjoys having their time and energy wasted, especially when it is an already scarce resource.
When thinking about my upcoming move to a new state, this was my biggest fear. How was I going to find new doctors who were willing to help me? I knew I needed to come up with a plan to find new doctors before my move. These tips can help you find a new doctor whether you are moving to a new place or staying put!
Plan Ahead and Fill Prescriptions
The first plan of action is trying to ensure you have enough of your prescriptions for a “buffer” period after your move (or switch!). The absolute last thing you want to be worrying about right after a big move is that your prescription just ran out and you have no way of getting it filled in a new state.
Check and see if it is possible for you to get 90-day refills and try to time these up as best as possible with your move date. It turns out that I could get one of my medications filled through the mail order pharmacy for a 90 day supply (normally only got a 30 day supply) and it was actually cheaper!
Get Copies of Medical Records
Get copies of all of your relevant medical records and test results. It definitely helps to start getting in the habit of doing this anyway, but it will be a lifesaver when it comes time to meet with all of your new doctors.
Calling and requesting to send records is one of my least favorite tasks. It takes forever, I can’t always remember what needs to be sent or what procedures I have had done, and I have to call multiple different offices every time I need my records sent.
Don’t Forget to Download My FREE Health & Symptom Tracker!
Getting your own copy of your records can save you a lot of time and effort! Your office may charge you a small fee depending on the size of your records, but some will send them for free.
Check Foundations and Organizations Related to Your Illness
Many of the large organizations dedicated to certain chronic illnesses provide physician directories on their websites. This is a good place to start when you need to find a new doctor! These are physicians that you know will be knowledgeable about your illness. Below are a few to get you started:
Join Local Support Groups
The best doctors I have ever seen have been recommended to me by another patient. I think we have all experienced this at some point!
It is common to look to a coworker, family member, or friend for a doctor that they have had really good experiences with. Word of mouth is the best advertising!
The problem with moving to a new city, however, is that you might not have enough connections right away to help with these recommendations.You also just might not know anyone in your current city with your illness.
That is where online support groups are a lifesaver! You can find them by searching on Facebook for groups related to your illness + your new city, or through the same organizations I talked about above.
I would suggest reaching out to the local support groups even if you do find a physicians directory, because there is a good chance that there are additional local physicians who may be knowledgeable about your illness.
For example, I joined the local dysautonomia international support group for my new city and there were so many recommendations for physicians who knew about POTS!
Helpful tip: you can search in a facebook group to find previous posts about the info you are looking for.
Make a List
Make an organized list of all the doctors you compile. I used google sheets to keep track of my list, and it was a lifesaver!
Trying to keep track of who I had called already got overwhelming very quickly, and this spreadsheet helped me get everything organized and under control.
I created a free template that you can use to track your list of new doctors to call.
When you open the document, just hit “file” and then “make a copy” to get your own copy to edit!
Cross Check With Insurance
I don’t know about you, but paying out of pocket for healthcare is just not possible for me. My healthcare costs are already through the roof even with good insurance!
Make sure you check with your insurance carrier to see which physicians on your list are covered.
My insurance has an online portal that I can just log in to and search providers to see if they are covered. This saves a lot of time so I don’t have to call the customer service line!
Use Internet Resources
In addition to local support groups, there are also a variety of ways to find a new doctor using the internet! Below are a few sites that may help you.
Ratings of doctors based on peer nominations, research, screening, and other factors. Search by name, location, hospital, specialty, or insurance. Within their profiles, doctors can feature other key information such as languages spoken in the office, how to book an appointment, and common Q&A with their patients.
The leading online resource for patients to find and connect with the right doctor or hospital. You can search for top-rated doctors or hospitals, read what other patients have to say about them, and book appointments.
Helps find and compare clinicians and groups enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid. Provides information on board certification, education, and group and hospital affiliations.
Call For Appointments
Hopefully this step is obvious, but next is calling to set up your appointments! It is best to do this in advance of your move, as it is common to have long wait times to get in with certain specialists.
Try not to be discouraged if you have a hard time getting appointments set up! If you are really having trouble, you can try asking your current doctorss to make the call on your behalf.
Determine If They Are a Good Fit
Finding the right “fit” for your doctors is the most important thing to ensuring quality healthcare. Having a good relationship with your doctor makes a serious difference in your quality of care!
How to choose a new doctor – key factors to consider:
- Do they listen to you and your concerns?
- Are they willing to learn about things that they might not have much experience in? (or help refer you to someone who does)
- Do they answer all your questions thoroughly and ensure you understand?
- Is follow up care prompt?
- Can you contact them prior to your follow up if you are having trouble with the recommended treatment?
- Are the front office staff helpful in scheduling appointments and coordinating your care?
- What are the office policies? How long does it take to make an appointment for a routine appointment? Do they offer same day sick appointments? How long is the average wait time?
Hopefully these tips were helpful for the next time you need to find a new doctor! Let me know in the comments below if there are any other useful resources you use when changing doctors.