Finding a Doctor: 7 Tips

Plan to spend some time on the legwork.

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Here are a few ways to tackle your search for a doctor:

• Some states maintain searchable lists of physicians online. A Massachusetts search, found 18 family practice doctors in Amherst, for example.

• Hospitals often have physician referral services and can tell you which of the doctors who practice there are taking new patients.

• Insurers provide books or online lists of physicians who are in the plan—though the lists are not necessarily up to date.

• Some insurers let women use their gynecologists as primary-care providers.

• Practices affiliated with a medical school may have more openings, because they use residents for more-routine tasks.

• The American Board of Medical Specialties has a free service that reports on whether a physician is board certified, which means he or she has passed exams on best practices.

• If you have a doctor you really like, consider paying cash upfront and asking your insurer to reimburse you at the out-of-network rate. Not all insurers will do this; check first.