You may have just found a lesion that you think should be checked by a dermatologist, moved to a new area or you are not happy with your present doctor and want to make a change. No matter why you are looking for a dermatologist, it can be a daunting experience.
The following are some tips to finding the best dermatologist for you:
Ask for referrals. Talk with friends and relatives who regularly visit a dermatologist and ask who they use. Find out what they like about this doctor. You should also ask your primary care physician for referrals. Once you have a few names, check to make sure they are members of the American Academy of Dermatology. You can use their "Find a Dermatologist" tool. Only those doctors who are members will be listed on your search. You can also check your state's medical board website to verify that the doctor is licensed to practice medicine in your state.
Contact the office. You may want to call a few different doctors before deciding which one to visit. When you call the office, ask questions such as:
- Do you accept my insurance?
- What payment types are accepted for co-pays or deductibles?
- If you don't have insurance, is the doctor willing to work with you and accept payments over a period of time?
- Is this a group practice? If so, will you be able to see the same doctor every visit or will you be set up in a room and the first doctor available sees you?
- What are your office hours?
- How long does it take to get an appointment? Do you need to call weeks in advance for an appointment?
- Is there a website? Can you request appointments or call backs from the website?
Often, if the doctor does have a website, you can find the answers on the site. However, you may also find it helpful to call to find out if the receptionist is friendly and helpful. Was she willing to answer your questions without making you feel uncomfortable or rushed?
Find out the doctor's specialty or area of expertise. Dermatologists can have areas of specialty, such as acne, cosmetic treatments or skin cancer. Find out if the doctor you are considering has experience treating skin cancer.
Talk directly with the doctor. You can ask to have the doctor call you back for a short conversation. You want to know that he is easy to talk with and if he takes the time to listen to you. You want to be respectful of the doctor's time and keep the conversation short, so be prepared with one or two questions. Once the conversation is over, you will have a better idea of whether or not you feel comfortable with the doctor.
Once you complete these steps, you should be able to narrow down your choice and set up your first consultation. Remember, you need to feel comfortable about working with this doctor. If you are not satisfied, after the first consultation or even after months or years of being treated, you have the right to look for a different doctor.