Think back to how you chose your last doctor. Maybe you picked the first one that popped up in a Google search. Or maybe you haven’t ever chosen one since your mom found your pediatrician 25 years ago. (Tip: If your last doc slapped on a racing-car Band-Aid after your last shot, you might be overdue.) 

Lots of guys spend more time researching their next smartphone than their next doc. And that’s a mistake: Finding the right physician can put you on a path to good health. In fact, a study published in Health Services Research found that people with chronic illnesses who feel they have high-quality relationships with their M.D. are more likely to take an active role in their health and treatment.

So how can you find the doc of your dreams? Look for someone who’s able to foster a healthy, communicative relationship with you, while making sure he’s got something called “domain experience,” says Ari Levy, M.D., M.B.A., CEO of Engaged Health Solutions. That means he has highly-honed skills in his field and a board certification.

You won’t be able to seek out this superstar with one click of the mouse. But follow the steps below and you’ll be well on your way. 

1. Determine the Best Kind of Doc for You
There are two kinds of primary care specialties that apply to young guys: internal medicine and family medicine. 

The best way to decide which kind of specialist to see is to take a look at your own health background, and consider how you’d prefer to have your healthcare delivered, says Daniel Vigil, M.D., an associate clinical professor of family medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. 

If you suffer from chronic diseases—say, diabetes or heart disease—and you prefer a more traditional approach to medical care, you may benefit more from seeing an internist. That’s because their training is based on organ systems and the traditional model of disease treatment. 

Family doctors, on the other hand, have a broader breadth of training—everything from pediatric to geriatric medicine, including medical, surgical, and trauma-related problems—which emphasizes a more integrative approach, says Dr. Vigil. 

If you’re looking for a more holistic approach, you may want to consider seeing a family doc, since they tend to be geared more toward prevention of disease and multi-disciplinary approaches to treating it.

2. Think About What You Want
Think of your potential doctor like your perfect woman: What qualities are you looking for? What are absolute necessities, and what factors are simply nice bonuses?

Make a list of what you’d like to find in your doctor, and don’t be afraid to ask questions when you meet him to help you dig to the answers, says Dr. Levy. Maybe you’re searching for an expert in the field of diabetes, or you must have a doc who’s a communication superstar. Or you might just want someone who feels comfortable answering emails or texts rather than saving everything for face-to-face meetings.

One helpful trick: Lots of guys pick a doctor with whom they have something in common, says Dr. Vigil. That might mean factors as simple as age or gender. Some men who enjoy talking about the latest and greatest medical innovations might prefer an academic-based doc who’s involved in cutting-edge research. Or guys who are super athletic might click well with a more sports-medicine-inclined doc.  

3. Ask Around
When you’re first scoping out a doctor, don’t be afraid to tap into your real social network: friends and family who can spill what they think about their own docs.

A glowing assessment can help you whittle down your list, but make sure you do one important thing first: Ask your pals why they liked their doc so much, recommends Dr. Levy.

That’s because what fits for your friends might make you cringe. If your buddy prefers a strict, no-nonsense doctor, but you like someone with a conversational approach, his recommendation might leave you disappointed.  

4. Look for These Credentials…
You can usually find a list of doctors in your area through your health plan’s website. Bonus: You’ll also know they will accept your insurance. 

Here’s what matters more: an unrestricted license to practice in their particular state with no disciplinary sanctions (check out and board certification in their specialty. Now, board certification isn’t exactly necessary for a great doc, but it does function as a quality “seal of approval,” says Dr. Vigil.

How so? Every so many years, depending on their specialty, board-certified doctors must pass a test that shows they’re up to date on the latest medical changes in their field. So if your doctor is board-certified, you can rest assured he’s not still practicing techniques that went out with the Cold War.

5. …But Don’t Worry So Much about These
What matters less: A fancy-schmancy education and residency. Medical schools and training programs in the U.S. are so highly regulated that they can all produce high-quality graduates, says Dr. Vigil. That’s where board certification comes in—all docs who earn it must pass the same exam, no matter where they went to school or were trained. 

But a doctor’s training grounds may be able to clue you in on his experience level for certain things. For instance, say you’re an avid outdoorsman and skier: A doctor who cut his teeth in Boulder, Colorado, may have encountered many more hiking and skiing injuries than someone who completed a residency in more urban areas, says Dr. Vigil.

6. Be Savvy about Reviews
You wouldn’t buy a TV without checking out the reviews first, so why pick a physician without poking around a little bit online? Just be careful: Internet reviews can provide some info about a doc’s interpersonal skills, but they can’t really delve deeply into their quality, says Dr. Vigil.

Think of it this way: Positive reviews may tell you that the doctor is very friendly and accessible, but you wouldn’t be able to know he’s prescription-happy and doles out antibiotics like candy when patients come in with a simple respiratory infection. 

Plus, you might not be getting the breadth of opinions you think. The average physician rated on RateMD has only 3.2 ratings, a study from the University of Maryland found. And nearly half of the doctors on the site had just a single rating.

7. Check for Panel Size
When you’re calling around to schedule a first appointment with a doctor, one thing you might want to ask about is his or her panel size, or how many patients the doc sees. 

The average primary care doctor’s patient panel exceeds 2,300, a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found. So don’t be alarmed by big numbers: Hearing that a doc has a panel of up to 2,500 patients can show that he is busy, and patients continue to go to him, says Dr. Vigil.

As for the red flags, steer clear of a super-small panel—you want others to want to see your doc—or one that was just significantly increased, say to 3,500.

“You might get the sense then that the doctor is stressed out and overworked,” he says. “You might struggle for face time.”

8. Ask How You’ll Contact Him
Chances are something will eventually come up outside of your scheduled appointment that requires your doctor’s input. So it’s important to know first how you’ll reach him.

That’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask the office staff when you’re choosing a doc, says Dr. Vigil. Some practices will have a nurse or other staff member reply to your phone call, email, or text—after consulting with the doctor, of course. In other practices, the doctors are more hands-on and will get back to you themselves.

One way of communication isn’t necessarily better than the other. But it depends on what you’re comfortable with. Say you’re really anxious about some lab work results, and the nurse calls to let you know what’s going on. If you’re still worried or scared after talking with her, it’s understandable to want to get an explanation from the doc, says Dr. Vigil. If a staffer refuses to have him get in touch with you, you might want to search elsewhere for another physician.   

9. Find a Good Fit
Your doctor may have a laundry list of degrees, top training, and awards out the wazoo, but if you don’t click with him, you’re missing a vital part of care.

Example: Say your doc is a big jerk—he doesn’t explain what he’s doing, rushes you out of the room, and dismisses your questions. Are you going to feel comfortable chatting with him or sharing personal stuff? Probably not.

And that’s a problem, since doctors use the information you give them to decipher what’s going on with you, health-wise, says Dr. Levy.  

So when you meet your doc for the first time, try to get a feel of him. Ask a few questions to see how clearly he explains things, and if his health philosophy seems to mesh with your own. 

Then, ask him a couple questions about himself—where he’s from, what he does for fun, that kind of thing, says Dr. Vigil. (Just don’t get too personal or you’ll creep him out.) It’ll help you see your doc as a person, and might even uncover some common interests. 

10. Get Ready for the Tough Questions
If your new doctor doesn’t ask you the sort of questions that make you blush, you might not be getting the best care possible. 

When you meet him for your first appointment, you probably expect common questions about things like family history, allergies, and medications you take. But he should also really dive into your habits and personal life, which definitely play a role in your health, too. So he should ask you some probing questions: if you drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, use illicit drugs, have promiscuous sex, get enough sleep, how much you exercise, and how you’d rate your stress level.  

He’s not prying for the hell of it—this helps him gauge your risk for certain lifestyle-related diseases, and helps him better personalize your care, says Dr. Levy.

“If you don’t get asked those kinds of questions, that should be a red flag,” says Dr. Vigil.

11. Expect to Be Given the Time You Deserve
Yep, we get it: Doctors are busy people. In fact, a landmark 1999 study in JAMA found that primary care doctors let their patients talk for an average of just 23 seconds before interrupting them.

Good docs are no less busy, but they’ll make you feel like they have time for you and your concerns. They’ll engage you in a meaningful conversation and allow you the time you need to get your point across.

But even great physicians can’t stop the clock. So if your guy can’t get to your entire list of concerns at the initial appointment, he should make a plan to answer them, whether it’s through a follow up appointment or by phone or email, says Dr. Levy.

12. Expect Him to Focus On You
Electronic health records (EHR) are good for a lot of things—like tracking information and helping medical pros communicate—but they can hinder in-person interaction if a doctor isn’t careful.

That’s because when you’re talking, your doc’s pecking away at the keyboard, so all you might see is the top of his head. You might feel like you’re blathering away into a black hole, even if he’s actually taking note of everything you’re saying.

“If a patient doesn’t feel like he’s given personal attention, that’s bad,” says Dr. Vigil. “That’s a deficit that shouldn’t happen.”

But doctors who are great communicators can navigate the art of the EHRs, balancing inputting all of the necessary information while keeping their focus on you. That allows for better, more comfortable conversations—and better care potential.

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