Questionnaire For The Doctor's Staff
We provide the questions to ask a potentially new doctor's staff in two formats. Below are the questions. If you would prefer to see them in an automated format which allows you to reorder them according to your priority, click here.
NOTE: Please feel free to print a copy of the following list for each doctor you are considering. In case you don't get to ask all your questions, mark in the left margin the order in which you want to ask the questions.
- Is the doctor accepting new patients?
- Does the doctor take my health insurance?
- If you have Managed Care insurance:
- Does the office accept it? If the answer is no, and the doctor is head an shoulders above your other choices, ask if the doctor will consider joining your plan. If the answer is "no", ask "why?" You may learn something useful about your plan.
- Does the office waive co-payments? They're not supposed to, but many doctors do.
- If you have Fee-For-Service (Indemnity) Insurance
- Will the office accept assignment of my benefits as full payment?
- Will the office do the paperwork or do you have to?
- If you have Medicare:
- Does the office accept Medicare?
- If you have Medicaid
- Does the office accept Medicaid?
- If you do not have insurance:
- What does the doctor charge for office visits?
- Is the doctor willing to negotiate fees?
- Consider getting health insurance. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, you cannot be discriminated against because of health history.
- If you have Managed Care insurance:
- With which hospital is the doctor affiliated? Doctors cannot work in hospitals unless they have an affiliation with the hospital. The key is to find out what hospital the doctor can see you in if you need to be hospitalized.
- (If physical accessibility is an issue for you): Is the office accessible to me?
- What are the doctor's hours?
- How can the doctor be reached after hours?
- What's is the reality with appointments?
- Generally, how long does it take to get an appointment?
- How long do patients who come on time generally have to wait to see the doctor?
- What is the cancellation policy if I can't make an appointment?
- If engish is not your first language, does the doctor speak your language - or is a translator available?
- Does the doctor provide a free initial interview? (Don't expect a yes, but it doesn't hurt to ask)
- What is the procedure in case I have an emergency?
- Does the doctor charge patients fees beyond the fee or a visit or for services?
- If Medicare is involved, this may not be legal since additional fees cannot be charged
- If you have a Managed Care policy, extra charges may be prohibited in the plan
- Who covers when the doctor is not available? What re his or her credentials?
- Does the doctor give advice over the telephone or through email or fax?
- If I call during office hours, does the doctor speak with me then, or generally call back?
- If s/he calls back, when?
- Is there an extra charge for speaking with the doctor on the telephone or contact by email or fax?
- How do I get renewals of drugs or continuation of treatment when I'm not present with the doctor?
- Does the office send reminders about prevention tests, such as pap smears and flu shots?
- Will the doctor allow someone to accompany me during my visit and/or record our visit?
- Does the doctor require a hold harmless agreement?
- More doctors are requiring patients to sign agreements promising not to sue for "frivolous" reasons, or sometimes, for any reason at all.
- Does the doctor have malpractice insurance?
- Because of growing insurance costs, a growing number of doctors are going without insurance. This means the doctor, rather than a deep pocketed insurance company, is responsible for any judgment or settlement -- which can mean less money for you, or none at all, if the doctor messes up. Consider saying something like: "I am not a person who goes around suing people, but I have heard about this and am curious. Does the doctor have malpractice insurance?"
- If the doctor doesn't have malpractice insurance, does he or she have a fund of money available in case of a judgment?
- Has the doctor ever been sued? If so, what was the result of the suits?
- Will your health insurance cover your costs if the doctor has no insurance?
Additional considerations to think about after you hang up:
- Did the person you spoke with sound professional and competent?
- Was the person friendly or polite and willing to discuss your answers?
- Did the person sound harried, and uninterested in helping you?
- If the office was not able to answer your questions when you called, did they offer, or are they willing, to speak with you at another time?