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Choosing Your Own Doctor

Now is a good time to start taking charge of your health care. Part of that means choosing a doctor. If your current doctor also treats adults, you don’t have to switch if you don’t want to.

But maybe your pediatrician no longer sees patients your age or you're moving. Or you just might want a doctor you like better. Here’s how to find one.

What Should I Look for in a Doctor?

The most important thing is to find a doctor or other health care provider you feel comfortable with and who understands your concerns. 

Start by making a list of the things that matter to you. For example, you may want someone who:

  • is familiar with certain health issues, like sickle cell disease
  • is an adolescent medicine doctor, though you’ll need to switch to an adult doctor later
  • has an office that's close or easy to get to
  • has office hours that are good for you, like late afternoons or evenings
  • is the same gender

You also might want to think about things like:

  • Does the doctor offer telehealth visits?
  • Can you send the doctor questions online?
  • Does the doctor respect your views and things like your sexual orientation?
  • Will you see your doctor or someone else when you're sick?

After making your list, rank the items in order of how important each is to you.

How Do I Find a Health Care Provider?

Ask family and friends who they go to. You can also ask your current doctor to suggest someone.

Check which doctors in your area accept your health insurance. Look on the insurance company’s website. Or call the doctor's office and ask. Making sure your care will be covered helps prevent surprise bills.

Find out if the doctor is accepting new patients. The insurance company website may mention this, but it’s a good idea to double check with the doctor’s office. 

What Should I Do After I Chose a Doctor?

Call the doctor’s office and schedule a new patient visit/checkup. If you're not feeling well, see your current doctor.

It’s important for your new doctor to know about your health history. This includes things like vaccines you've gotten, medicines you take, and illnesses you’ve had. All this stuff is in your medical records. Ask the office staff how to transfer them from your old doctor. If you see other kinds of health care providers, you might need to get your records from them too. 

You'll need to submit new-patient paperwork before your first visit. See if you can do it online. A parent can help with questions about things like your health history and insurance.

How Should I Prepare for a New Doctor’s Visit?

Consider asking a parent to come along. Even if you’re old enough to go to a doctor by yourself, you may want to bring a parent to your first visit. Parents can help you find the office, fill out paperwork, and answer questions from the staff. 

But there might be things you’re not comfortable talking about in front of your parent. If you want privacy at the visit, tell your parent before the visit that you’d like some time with the doctor alone. Even if your parent is in the room for part of the visit, try to answer the doctor's questions yourself.

If you’d like company but don’t want to bring a parent, ask another trusted adult or a friend to go with you.

Bring a list of questions to ask your doctor. It's easy to forget to mention things when you’re in the exam room. If you're uneasy bringing something up, show the doctor your list. 

Get ready to ask the doctor to explain things. You want a doctor and staff who are patient and help you understand things rather than rushing. At your visit, ask the doctor to repeat something — like information about medicine. Also ask if you can take notes or record instructions to play back later. The doctor should be fine with your request — and with taking the time to make sure you understand everything.

What if I Want to Switch Doctors Again?

Maybe you’ve had a few visits with your new doctor but they're not what you expected. Depending on your insurance, you might be able to switch again right away.

With all the changes going on in your mind, body, and life, your doctor will play an important part. Make sure you find someone who you feel comfortable with and can stay with for a long time.

Reviewed by: Amy E. Renwick, MD
Date Reviewed: Oct 21, 2023

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