After graduation, how do I find a doctor?

Originally Published: December 21, 1995 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: May 17, 2013
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Alice,

After I graduate and move away from home, from town, from anyone I've ever known: how do I pick a doctor? How do I even find a doctor to pick?

—Looking for a doctor

Dear Looking for a doctor,

Good for you for thinking ahead! Although it can be overwhelming to graduate and move away for any number of reasons, it's important to take the time to make a plan for finding a provider. The term provider is used because a range of professionals provide health care, including: nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians, physician assistants, and many more. Assuming you are moving within the U.S., your options for finding and choosing a provider depend largely on whether or not you have insurance.

Check out another reader's question about health insurance options after college for some options for recent grads.

If you have insurance through your parents, spouse, partner, employer, or public insurance program, contact the insurance company or visit their website for a list of approved providers in your area. Many health insurance plans will require that you choose a primary care physician from their approved list of providers. It's also helpful to ask friends or family for a recommendation.

You may check for board certification and any past disciplinary action by going to the Administrators in Medicine and American Medical Association's Physician Select websites. Don't be afraid to ask people in your new town or workplace for recommendations. You may also call the practice's office and ask questions before choosing that provider. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has a list of things to consider when choosing a provider. The American Medical Association recommends that in addition to the resources above, you also consider the following in making your choice:

  • Office hours
  • Emergency availability
  • Average wait during appointments
  • Number of patients booked per hour
  • Whether patients may choose the specialist they want to see
  • Rapport with the physician (during your first visit)

If you don't have insurance, you can check to see if you qualify for free or subsidized health care through the government. Almost all children and pregnant women qualify for care under Medicaid and people 19 to 64 with low income may also qualify. Residents of New York may visit Healthy NY for information about eligibility and insurance options. Outside of New York, check out your state's Department of Health website.

If you are not eligible for this type of care, you may look into individual health insurance plans. Even if you do not have health insurance, you can still get medical care through public hospitals and community health clinics. All New Yorkers may receive care through family and community health centers. Healthcare professionals at public clinics are not permitted to turn away individuals who cannot afford care. For a list of these clinics, go to Community Health Centers and HHC Child and Family Health Clinics.

There are other great resources such as HealthInsuranceInfo.net that serve as a great jumping off point for finding information about options in your state.

Whether you have insurance or not, don't delay if you need medical care. Now that you have information on healthcare options you should be able to figure out how to meet your medical needs. Although choosing a doctor is a big step, there are lots of resources at your fingertips, so start clicking!

Stay Healthy!

Alice
P.S.: Health Care Providers include:
  • doctors
  • nurses
  • nurse practitioners
  • psychiatrists
  • psychologists
  • mental health counselors
  • registered dietitians or nutritionists
  • social workers
  • complementary, alternative, or integrated medicine specialists
  • other clinicians, such as gynecologists, obstetricians, midwives, and urologists