Specialist's Office Staff Questionnaire
BEFORE YOU CALL A DOCTOR'S OFFICE AND ASK QUESTIONS
- Print one copy of the following list for each doctor you are considering.
- In case you don't get to ask all your questions, mark in the left margin the order in which you want to ask the questions. When you call, start with those questions which are most important to you.
- Review the list before calling a doctor's office.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER ASKING:
- Is the doctor accepting new patients?
- If you have health insurance, does the doctor accept it?
- If you have Managed Care insurance:
- Does the office accept it? If the answer is no, and the doctor is head and shoulders above your other choices, ask if the doctor will consider joining your plan. If the answer is "no", ask "why?" You may learn something useful about your plan.
- Does the office waive co-payments? They're not supposed to, but many doctors do.
- If you have Fee-For-Service (Indemnity) Insurance
- Will the office accept assignment of my benefits as full payment?
- Will the office do the paperwork or do you have to?
- If you have Medicare or Medicaid
- Does the office accept your type of coverage?
- If you have Managed Care insurance:
- If you do not have health insurance:
- What does the doctor charge for office visits?
- Is the doctor willing to negotiate fees?
- Does the doctor have a relationship with a medical credit card? (for example, Citi Health Card or Care Credit. These cards generally offer deferred-interest financing. If you do not pay within the set period of time, you will owe all the finance charges that have been deferred, generally with high interest rates. To find out how much you will need to pay each month to retire the debt before the end of the interest free period, use the loan payoff calculator at bankrate.com/calculators/credit-cards/credit-card-payoff-calculator.aspx )
- (If accessibility is an issue for you): Is the office accessible to me? For instance, Is the office on the ground floor? If not, does the building have an elevator?
- With which hospital(s) is the doctor affiliated? Doctors cannot work in hospitals unless they have an affiliation with the hospital. The key is to find out what hospital the doctor can see you in if you need to be hospitalized. You of course want the best available.
- What are the doctor's hours? On what days?
- With respect to appointments:
- Generally, how long does it take to get an appointment?
- How long do patients who come on time generally have to wait to see the doctor?
- What is the cancellation policy if I can't make an appointment?
- What is the procedure in case I have an emergency? Can I be seen by the doctor right away?
- If I need to speak with the doctor and call during office hours, does the doctor speak with me then, or generally call back? If a call back, when?
- How can I contact the doctor after hours?
- Is there a charge beyond the doctor's fee for services? For example, some doctors charge for additional items such as telephone consultations, paperwork and other services that are usually free.
- If Medicare is involved, this may not be legal since additional fees cannot be charged.
- If you have a Managed Care policy, extra charges may be prohibited in the plan.
- Who covers when the doctor is not available? What are his/her credentials?
- Does the doctor give advice over the telephone or through email or fax? Is there a charge for this service?
- How do I get prescription renewals or prescriptions for continuation of a treatment when I don't need to see the doctor?
- Does the office send reminders about prevention tests such as Pap Smears and Flu Shots?
- At appointments with the doctor:
- Is it okay to bring someone with me? (To learn about patient advocates, click here.)
- Is it okay to record the session so I can listen to it later?
- If you are concerned about what would happen if the doctor wrongs you, ask the following questions. Do not be surprised if you are not accepted as a patient for fear that you are a person who likes to sue people. We include them to give you the choice.
- Does the doctor require that patients sign a type of hold harmless agreement? More doctors are requiring patients to sign agreements promising not to sue for "frivolous" reasons, or sometimes, for any reason at all.
- Does the doctor have medical malpractice insurance?
- Because of growing insurance costs, a growing number of doctors are going without insurance. This means the doctor, rather than a deep pocketed insurance company, is responsible for any judgment or settlement -- which can mean less money for you, or none at all, if the doctor messes up. Consider saying something like: "I am not a person who goes around suing people, but I have heard about this and am curious. Does the doctor have malpractice insurance?"
- If the doctor doesn't have malpractice insurance, does he or she have a fund of money available in case of a judgment? Will your health insurance cover your costs if the doctor has no insurance?
AFTER YOU HANG UP
- Did the person you spoke with sound professional and competent?
- Was the person friendly or polite and willing to discuss your answers?
- Did the person sound harried, and uninterested in helping you?
- If the office was not able to answer your questions when you called, did they offer, or are they willing, to speak with you at another time?
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