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How to Make a Good Choice Choosing a New Doctor

The Medical Board of California does not provide a referral service for consumers who need to choose a doctor. However, the following information may help you make a choice.

Check with your Insurance Plan

If you have health insurance, the first place to check is with your insurer or your employer's benefits office. Many insurance plans limit your choice to a list of doctors who agree to certain requirements. Many plans also require you to select a primary care physician (PCP) from their list. The PCP is then responsible for your care, and must make any necessary referrals to specialists or other health professionals.

Research your Options

If you are not limited to a specific list of doctors, you may want to check your local yellow pages or perform an internet search. Most physicians are listed in the telephone yellow pages and, in larger communities, they are listed by specialty. You should consider a family physician or internal medicine specialist (internist) to serve as your PCP to provide overall management of your health care. You also may want to choose an obstetrician/gynecologist if you are a woman, or a pediatrician for your children. If you are elderly, and have conditions associated with aging, you may want to seek a specialist in geriatrics as your PCP. Regardless, be sure your insurance will cover the doctor's services before you incur any charges.

You may want to talk with friends or co-workers about physicians they like. If this is not feasible, most county medical societies will give you names of physicians in your area who are in the practice specialty you are seeking.

Make Contact

Once you have some names, call the doctors and ask if they are accepting new patients. Be sure to ask whether they will accept your insurance plan (insurance plan lists often are outdated, as physicians are added or deleted from the plan).

Ideally, you should meet the physician and discuss your health concerns while you are well. This may be a good time to have a history and physical examination performed, but, again, make sure your insurance will cover it. Most plans will not cover an informal visit just to get acquainted.

Before you make an appointment, call the Medical Board or check on our website (License Search) to verify that the doctor has a current California license.