Choosing a Healthcare Provider: Some Questions to Ask to Find the Right One for You

One of the most important tasks you may confront as a patient is finding and coordinating the best, most supportive healthcare team to meet your needs. We’ve put together the following list of questions to ask a new healthcare provider to help you find the best fit for your needs. Before contacting a new healthcare provider’s office, read through the list and mark the issues that are most important to you. While a provider’s office should not mind spending several minutes to answer questions, you will help your partnership get off to a good start if you are organized and to the point. Also, consider researching a new healthcare provider on the internet before contacting their office, as this may answer some of your questions, thereby saving time. Finally, remember to take notes! (To learn more about finding a sleep medicine doctor near you, please see “Additional Resources.” **)

Practicalities:

  1. What experience does this provider have treating people with idiopathic hypersomnia (IH) or other hypersomnias?
  2. What are the provider’s medical specialty, credentials and training? A good way to ask for this information might be, “I saw online that Dr. Jones specializes in _______________” (possibly neurology, sleep medicine, or other). “Is that correct? Does s/he have other specialty areas?” The following websites provide some guidance for verifying physician credentials in the U.S.: Very Well Health “How to Check a Doctor’s Background and Credentials”; ABMS (American Board of Medical Specialties) Verify Certification. Also, see below: *Sleep Medicine Training in the U.S.
  3. Is a referral from a current doctor required?
  4. What are the office hours? How soon can a new patient get an appointment? (Remember to confirm the street address for your appointment, as some doctors have more than one office.)
  5. How long is a first appointment, and, on average, how long are the follow-up appointments? (If follow-up appointments are brief, you might ask, “Is it possible to occasionally schedule an extended appointment, if there are multiple or complex issues to discuss?”)
  6. What options are available if care is needed on short notice or after office hours?
  7. What is the provider’s appointment cancellation policy?
  8. Does the provider take your insurance? (If you don’t have insurance, ask, “What rate will the provider charge? Is it possible to negotiate the fee?”)
  9. Does the provider prescribe medications? Is s/he willing to explore off-label medication?
  10. Does the provider participate in and/or refer patients to clinical trials or other research studies?

Communication and Coordination of Care:

  1. How does the office handle communication and/or questions for the provider between appointments? (By phone, text, email, or does the provider have a confidential, online Patient Portal system?) Does the office send out appointment reminders, and, if so, how?
  2. Which accredited hospitals/facilities does the provider use?
  3. Do you think the provider would have any issues if I were to ask for a second opinion?
  4. If I have questions about insurance, pharmaceutical assistance programs, or other paperwork, what is the name of the person in your office who handles those issues (and their contact information)?
  5. Will I always be seen by my treating healthcare provider or is there a rotation among other medical professionals on staff?
  6. Is there anything else I haven’t asked that may be helpful to know?

*Sleep Medicine Training in the U.S.

In the U.S., sleep medicine specialists have all completed extra training in sleep medicine after finishing their residency, which since 2007 can currently be done in neurology, internal medicine (including any subspecialty fellowship training, such as pulmonary), psychiatry, pediatrics, family medicine, otolaryngology (ENT), or anesthesiology. (For more information from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, CLICK HERE. The AASM also maintains a listing of accredited sleep centers.) Prior to 2007, sleep specialists were certified by the American Board of Sleep Medicine (ABSM).

Additional Resources:

Disclaimer: By accessing the Hypersomnia Foundation’s Healthcare Provider Directory (referred to in this document as the “Directory”), I understand and acknowledge that the list of healthcare providers is provided by the Hypersomnia Foundation as a free service for my use and benefit to identify healthcare providers who have notified the Hypersomnia Foundation that the healthcare provider has an interest in, expertise in, or both interest and expertise in the field of hypersomnia.

Although the healthcare professionals have granted the Hypersomnia Foundation permission to include their names and contact information in the Directory, the Hypersomnia Foundation has not independently verified the skills, expertise, or credentials of the healthcare providers listed in the Directory. Inclusion in the Directory does not imply endorsement or recommendation by the Hypersomnia Foundation.

In addition, the Hypersomnia Foundation makes no warranties or representations regarding the quality of care provided by, or skills of, the healthcare professionals listed in the Directory. Users of the Directory are responsible for making their own decisions and investigations into the credentials and abilities of any given healthcare provider and agree to waive any rights to bring a claim or action against the Hypersomnia Foundation and its officers, employees, directors, or representatives as the result of the user’s use of any information contained in the Directory.