Finding the right geriatric doctor, or geriatrician, can be difficult. You must have confidence in your doctor’s ability to treat your conditions or to refer you to someone who can. Your health is the most important thing you have, and you need a doctor you’re comfortable with. You might have to ask around or do a little research to find the best one for you. Sometimes the first doctor you talk to isn’t the one for you, but you will find a good fit eventually.
What to Look for in a Doctor
All geriatric doctors specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease and other medical conditions common to seniors. You want a doctor who knows how to treat your population and provide quality care. However, a doctor’s area of focus is just one thing you should look for. You also want to find a doctor that you can feel comfortable with.
It’s important that you feel comfortable asking questions about personal health concerns and that you can trust that your doctor is listening. You should feel like your health is as important to your doctor as it is to you.
The right geriatrician will take pride in providing the best quality of care possible. You should feel like your doctor thinks of you as a whole person, not just a list of conditions and symptoms.
Your geriatrician should be capable of finding solutions to your health problems. For example, let’s say you get sick one day, so you go to the doctor. Your doctor diagnoses your condition and prescribes a medication he or she thinks is best. You should have follow-up appointments to assess how the medication works, and your doctor should be committed to finding a prescription that works if the first one doesn’t.
A good place to start is to find out what other patients say about doctors in your area. Talk to friends and family and see if they like their geriatricians. Ask for recommendations from healthcare professionals you know and trust.
Look at doctor reviews on websites such as Healthgrades.com and read Google reviews. When you look for reviews on Google, also search for the doctor’s name and see if he or she is in the news. If his or her name pops up with a long history of legal trouble, you should move on.
How a Medicare Advantage Plan can Help
Look for a doctor who takes your insurance. If you have Medicare, you have a great resource to receive quality healthcare. However, Original Medicare doesn’t always approve every charge, and Medicare Parts A and B can be limited in what they cover.
That’s where Medicare Advantage (MA) plans come in. MA plans come from private insurance carriers and they can cover a lot of services Original Medicare does not. Medicare Advantage plans can cover a range of services including meal delivery, hearing, vision, and even fitness classes. Some plans even include prescription drug coverage!
There may be many MA plans to choose from in your area, and a great way to find out what’s available is to talk to a qualified professional who can help you find the right plan. You won’t lose your Original Medicare coverage if you enroll in a MA plan, and the “extras” your doctor recommends, like physical activity or home health devices, may be covered.
What if I’ve Already Found a Doctor I Like?
Maybe you’ve found a doctor you like, and he or she decides to stop taking your insurance plan. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may have to wait until the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) to make changes to your plan unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). If you want to stick with your doctor and are willing to wait until the AEP, which is every year from October 15 to December 7, find out what MA insurance plans your doctor accepts.
Usually, your doctor will give you a list of carriers he or she accepts, and Medicare Plan Finder benefits advisors have access to many different plans and carriers. Your benefits advisor will work with you to find a plan that will allow you to keep your geriatric doctor.
What is the Difference Between a Geriatric Doctor and a Regular Doctor?
Geriatricians provide primary care for seniors who have complicated medical issues. Age is not the only factor that causes people to need geriatricians. For example, an 80-year-old who is active and only takes a couple of medications doesn’t need to see a geriatrician, but a 65-year-old who has diabetes and heart disease does.
Your geriatric care will involve a team of medical professionals that will provide a comprehensive healthcare plan. You’ll work with your primary geriatric doctor, and often times a social worker, physical therapist, and/or a nutritionist depending on your needs.
If a doctor does not specify that they are a geriatric doctor, that does not necessarily mean that they do not work with older patients. However, doctors who do call themselves geriatric doctors typically have studied geriatrics and are more specialized in that area.
When You Should Find a New Doctor
If you feel like your doctor refuses to answer your questions, it may be time to find a new one. Your doctor has a responsibility to listen to you and answer your questions. If you say you’re concerned about a recommended procedure, your doctor should ask why. Your doctor should be able to ease your concerns and make sure you’re comfortable.
You should also find a new geriatrician if the office staff is unprofessional. If they don’t do their due diligence and provide you with all of the information you need, your health could be at serious risk. Your doctor and the office staff should have great communication skills. Look for a new doctor if your geriatrician doesn’t communicate with the rest of your care team, Your doctor should respond to you within a reasonable timeframe.
How to Find a New Doctor
The first step you should take when looking for a new doctor is to look for recommendations. Ask your friends and family members if they have a doctor that they like. Then, you can call that doctor’s office to verify that they accept your insurance.
If you don’t have any good recommendations, you may want to use an online search tool to find a doctor that accepts your plan.
Your plan might have a search tool of its own. That would be a great place to start because you know for sure that the information will be as up-to-date as possible. You can be sure that the doctors listed there will accept your plan (though it is always a good idea to call the doctor and ask before you set your first appointment).
Medicare.Gov and ZocDoc are two other great tools you can use.
Medicare.Gov’s Physician Finder Tool
Medicare.Gov is a great place to start because it will tell you which doctors accept Original Medicare (Parts A and B). If you have a private plan like Medicare Advantage, be aware that just because a doctor accepts Medicare does not necessarily mean they will accept your private Medicare Advantage plan.
All you have to do is visit medicare.gov/physiciancompare and enter your location and the type of doctor you are looking for.
You may be asked to select exactly which type of doctor you are looking for. Then, you’ll see a list of doctors who accept Medicare near you. You can filter by board certification, group affiliation, male/female doctors, distance, and whether or not they accept Medicare-approved payment (meaning you won’t be billed for more than the Medicare deductible and coinsurance).
ZocDoc Medicare Doctor Search Tool
ZocDoc is another great online tool for finding doctors near you, and it includes reviews! There is also an appointment scheduling feature so that you can book an appointment without having to call the office.
You can filter your search by the procedure you need as well as by appointment time, languages, gender, hospital affiliations, etc.. To show you how that works, we used our home city of Nashville and “primary care” as an example. Notice how we selected “Medicare” as our form of insurance.
We Can Help
Having the right geriatric team and insurance plan is paramount to having the best overall health possible. The team at Medicare Plan Finder can help you navigate the Medicare plans out there and find the best fit. Call us at 833-438-3676 or contact us here today.
This blog was originally written on May 17, 2019, by Troy Frink and updated on September 19, 2019, by Anastasia Iliou.