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How To Choose A Specialist

Step 2. Decide What You Want to Look For in a Specialist

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Factors to consider when choosing a specialist follow. While the factors may the same for choosing any doctor, which are important to you may differ depending on the particular doctor's role in your life.

  • Board Certification: Certification by the American Board of Medical Specialties is evidence that the specialist has received the proper training, performed the specialized residency, and has passed an extensive examination directly related to a specific condition and/or medical specialty. It does not certify the amount of a doctor's experience with your particular condition. To learn more about board certification, and to see if a particular doctor is board certified, see offsite link
  • Hospital Affiliation: Doctors can only admit patients to hospitals if the doctor has an arrangement known as "an affiliation" with that hospital. The better the hospital with which the doctor is affiliated, the better the doctor is likely to be. Hospitals check background and quality on an ongoing basis. It is also likely that you will get better care in a better hospital, which in turn affects the result.
  • Medical School: Do you care in which country the school is located, and about the name of the school?
  • Payment: If you have health insurance, does the specialist accept it? If you don't have health insurance, is the amount of the specialist's charge an issue?
  • Hospital Residency: Some people only want specialists who were a resident at a prestigious hospital.
  • Years in Practice/Age: 
    • Does age matter to you? Generally, the age of the doctor does not affect outcome. However, age may relate to your comfort level.
    • The longer a doctor has been in practice, the more experience he or she has. On the other hand, the doctor is also further away from the latest developments being discussed in medical school.
  • Sex: Do you prefer a doctor of the same sex you are?
  • Clinical Trials: Do you care whether the specialist heads or is involved in clinical trials relating to your condition?
  • Solo or Group Practice? Both types of practices have their advantages. 
    • A solo practice may provide more continuity of care and allow for the development of a more personal relationship with the doctor. 
    • A group practice may be a group of doctors with the same specialty or different specialties. A group practice may provide for additional medical opinions and more extensive services.
  • Location: Is the specialist's location important to you? Location may be more important if you will see the doctor on a continuous basis than if you only see him or her once or a few times.
  • Parking or Other Transportation: Important to you?
  • Hours: Is it only convenient for you to see the specialist on certain days and/or hours?
  • Language: If English isn't your first language, do you need a specialist who can speak your language -- or at least have translation available?

While the following will not be relevant to your initial search, start thinking about things you care about that will only become clear once you meet the doctor. For instance:

  • Bedside manner: Does the specialist's personality matter to you? You may care more about a personal relationship with a primary care doctor or a specialist you'll see over time than a specialist you see for a particular event, such as a surgeon.
  • How much do you want to participate? Do you want a specialist who tells you want to do? At the other extreme, do you need to make all the decisions? Do you want to think of your specialist as a partner, a member of your team who gives you his or her opinion and expertise, discusses matters, and lets you make the final decision?

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Clinical Trials

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