Finding an appropriate doctor for each individual


Whether you’re looking for a primary care doctor or a brain surgeon, it often feels harder than it should to find a good doctor who is both skilled and reputable. Why is this – and is there any way to get around these challenges?

There are a multitude of reasons why it’s hard to find a good doctor, but it starts and ends with the shortage of doctors in the United States – a shortage that’s expected to increase rather dramatically over the next decade.

According to one report, the shortage of primary care doctors in the United States increased from 9,000 in 2010 to 29,800 in 2015. By 2020, that number is expected to grow to 45,400. By 2025, the shortage will be an astounding 65,800. In some areas of the country, the average wait time to see a primary care physician is three weeks.

It’s not just primary care doctors, though. Data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), suggests the total shortfall of all physicians will be 130,600 by 2025. The greatest shortage by percentage will be among surgeons, particularly those working in specialized areas like cancer treatment and chronic disease.

The shortage of doctors puts increased pressure on the doctors that are actively practicing. They’re forced to see more patients in the same period of time, which lessens the amount of time they’re able to spend with individual patients face-to-face, increases the likelihood of error, and creates complicated streams of paperwork that bog down the administrative side of things.

As doctors become more and more overwhelmed by the increased workload, many get burned out. This hurts the performance of some and causes others to drop out of the profession altogether – compounding the shortage and worsening the cycle.

On the patient side of things, it isn’t always easy to know where to look or how to find a good doctor who’s skilled, attentive, and available. Many don’t know where to start and end up using a mixture of self-care and minute clinic visits to piece together their healthcare needs.

Most Americans have no clue where to even begin their search for a doctor. Do you start online? Ask friends and neighbors? Dust off the yellow pages?

There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to find a doctor, but here are some practical steps you can take to find the right physician for your situation.


  • Determine Your Needs


Start by focusing on you. What sort of needs do you have, and what do you want out of your doctor? Are you looking for someone who practices cutting-edge medicine, or are you more interested in a steady physician with a good bedside manner? The clearer you are on what you want/need, the better the search process will go.


  • Ask for Referrals


While you have to be careful not to get sucked into a referral funnel that’s based on quid pro quos, it’s often helpful to get a referral from a doctor whom you trust. A referral can fast track you to the front of the line and help you get the connections you need.  


  • Review Top Rankings and Awards


You’ve seen the top rankings and award lists before, but perhaps you’ve never paid much attention to them. In your search for a good doctor, you’ll want to give some credence to these rankings and lists.

Good doctors typically surround themselves with other good doctors. They like to learn from the best and be around the best. Take Rush University Medical Center as an example. They have 15 of the top cardiac specialists in the Chicago area. If you need heart care in Chicago, you go to Rush. In your area, there are likely hospitals and medical facilities that are known for cancer, orthopedic surgery, cardiology, etc. Find these facilities, and you’ll find good doctors.


  • Schedule a Consultation


Once you’ve found a doctor that you believe is a good fit – or at least one that trusted sources have recommended – schedule a consultation so that you can get to know the physician, ask questions, and get a feel for how they interact with patients. Any good doctor – regardless of how busy they are – will make some time for consultations with new patients.


  • Consider a Teaching Hospital


When you have a serious illness or life-threatening condition, it’s smart to go to a teaching hospital.

“You’ll get doctors involved with the latest in medicine,” cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Tomas A. Salerno explains. “Even for simple cases, if there’s a complication that requires an assist device or a heart transplant, some hospitals may not be able to do it. At a university hospital, you also have the advantage of having a resident or physician bedside 24-7, with a surgeon on call always available.”

When it comes to your health and well-being, you shouldn’t have to settle. You live in a country that possesses some of the brightest medical minds and most skilled hands in the world. Waiting hours, days, or weeks to see an average physician isn’t acceptable.

While it, unfortunately, isn’t as easy as it once was to gain access to a highly skilled doctor, there are still plenty of them out there. Take your time and don’t rush the process. Eventually, you’ll find a doctor that you connect with – a doctor that can provide exceptional and timely care that satisfies your health needs.

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