In my home country, if someone has persistent cough or fever, they can get up and go to one of the hundreds of doctors without as much needing to call ahead or better yet – they can call a doctor home. You need not be rich to avail this service. You may have to wait for an hour or so but your doctor will see you the same day.
When it comes to visiting a doctor in US, its a whole other ball game. Sometimes appointments can take days if not weeks. This article’s objective is to show you various options you have to get medical help in the US.
Before we proceed any further:
- In case of emergency – call 911
- Before you head out to any hospital/clinic – call ahead to find out their availability, hours of operation etc.
Now with that out of the way, let’s look at how to go about visiting doctor in US.
I. My problem is not too serious but I would feel comfortable seeking advice just to be sure.
For minor problems you can visit the general clinic in one of the pharmacy stores in your area. Some options include:
- Walgreens has healthcare clinic that is open 7 days a week and nights too and they welcome walk-ins.
- CVS pharmacy has a minute clinic where you can be seen by a doctor who can assess your symptoms and tell you what you are dealing with, if it is something that can be found prima facie.
- Walmart has clinics that are open 7 days of the week.
II. How do I find a doctor?
If you do not want to pursue the route of clinics because your problem is persistent – you can call your existing physician and get an appointment. If you have never visited a doctor in US and would like to find one, here are few pointers.
- Yellow pages: This age old resource never gets old. What is cool about this source is they have an online version too.
- WebMD: This is an online resource that can give you lot of information about the options available in your area.
- Insurance company site: It is most likely that your health insurance company website already has tons of best doctors listed who may cover you under your insurance coverage. Examples include: United Healthcare, BlueCross Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente, Humana, Aetna, Cigna, etc.
- Referral: Ask your friends/colleagues for their recommendation. Sometimes best service is availed by word of mouth. Check in if they accept your insurance before booking appointment.
III. How can I be sure that the Doctor I pick is good/reliable?
You don’t, unless you visit the doctor. However, you do have some filters to make sure that you don’t end up going to a complete waste of time doctor. Use following review resources:
Vitals.com: Vitals gives you opportunity to search the doctor you are looking into and see what kind of ratings/reviews they got.
zocdoc.com: This site gives you opportunity to search for doctors under various insurance plans with extensive reviews – all in one place.
Ask others: If you know others who have visited the same doctor – ask for their experience/opinion.
IV. Making an appointment
You searched for a good doctor, you are satisfied with the reviews, what next?
i) Book an appointment online:
via insurance company site, Doctor’s personal site, ZocDoc, Vitals etc.
ii) Call in for an appointment:
find the office hours and call in for an appointment. You can use yellow pages or google to find the contact information, once you have zeroed down on the doctor.
V. Children related health concerns:
If you are dealing with your kids health concern and if you do not have a doctor available that you visited before, you can find a local children’s hospital here.
VI. My problem is an emergency, what should I do?
For emergencies – always call 911.
If you are able to drive yourself or whoever is in need for medical help visit an emergency room(ER) at your local hospital. ERs do not need you to have appointment in advance. You can find the local hospitals here and find out if they have emergency room before you head out to them.
Disclaimer: Information purposes only. Not an advice. May contain opinions.