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Senior Living Q & A

April 23, 2009

Q. Up until the past few years I have been healthy and have never been in the hospital. But now, as I get older I find that my blood pressure and cholesterol are high. Although I am eating better and exercising more, I am wondering about how to choose doctors and a hospital to get the best care should I need it in the future. What do you suggest?Up until the past few years I have been healthy and have never been in the hospital. But now, as I get older I find that my blood pressure and cholesterol are high. Although I am eating better and exercising more, I am wondering about how to choose doctors and a hospital to get the best care should I need it in the future. What do you suggest?

— Dan, La Cañada

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The first question you should consider is whether you need a primary-care or a specialty doctor. You also must consider the guidelines of your insurance.

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A primary-care physician is a doctor who diagnoses and treats a wide range of common illnesses and conditions. Primary-care doctors also provide patient education, offer advice on preventing disease and coordinate care if a specialist is needed. Primary-care doctors may be certified, which means that they have special skills in different areas, such as family or internal medicine.

A specialist such as an allergist or cardiologist has advanced training in a certain area of medicine focusing on a particular disease, condition or procedure.

Before you make an appointment with either a primary-care or specialist, find out whether your health plan includes that doctor in its approved list of providers. Not all plans include the same doctors in their network. If they don’t, you could end up paying the full cost of the visit.

To be safe, find out whether your doctor is in good standing with the state medical board. You can do this through http://www.mbc.ca.gov/lookup.html.

Even if the doctor you choose is right for your condition, is covered by your health plan and is in good standing with state agencies, that doesn’t mean he or she is your best choice. Find out if the physician:

• Clearly answer questions about your condition and treatment plan. If there isn’t enough time to answer your questions during the appointment, find out if the office will contact you later. Or ask whether there is a good time to call with any follow-up questions.

• Does he or she use a hospital whose location and quality you feel comfortable with, in the event you need hospital care? Learn more about the quality of care at many hospitals from the Federal Government’s Hospital Compare website, at www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov. Of course, if you are having a heart attack or stroke you will want to be taken to the closest hospital, but for other conditions where immediate attention is not required, it is worthwhile to investigate the various hospitals in your area.

It is wise to do this research in advance. After all, you probably do a lot of research before you buy a car. Your body and your health deserve that same attention, too.


NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor’s degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, e-mail it to lcnews@valleysun.net or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, (818) 790-0123, ext. 225.

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