How to Vet a Doctor

If you are looking for where to go to get a mammogram, or for a breast surgeon or oncologist if you are experiencing an issue, it can be confusing to know where to start. One tried and true method of finding a provider is through your social circle. Talk to your friends who have had mammograms or seen a breast surgeon and ask where they went and what their experience was. Hearing from them might help you think about what you might want in a provider. Here are some questions to ask your friends and family when looking for referrals:

  • Were pre-visit instructions clear? Was the office easy to access? (parking, location, ease of scheduling appointments)
  • Was the support staff welcoming? (front desk and nursing) Did you feel heard and valued?
  • For an imaging center, how were the technicians? Were they respectful of your feelings and boundaries?
  • For a breast surgeon or oncologist, did they make you feel heard and that your concerns were valid? Did they outline clear next steps? Were they open to questions about a course of action?

Another first place to look for a referral is your primary care provider or your OB-GYN. They work with a lot of different providers and often have either formal referral lists or will suggest colleagues they frequently refer to. Many times, the providers they refer you to work for the same hospital system, which hopefully means that they are also covered under your insurance. Another tip: if you have been going to the same imaging center for years, it’s not a bad idea to check with your primary care provider that they still recommend that facility, or if they have started sending their patients somewhere new.

Which brings us to the next step: checking that the provider is covered under your insurance. Even if your referring provider is covered under your insurance, it is good to check that the imaging center or breast surgeon is also covered. You can do this by checking with your insurance company online, giving them a call, or calling the imaging center or provider’s office before your appointment to confirm that they take your insurance. If you call your insurance company, take note of the date and time that you called and the name of the person you spoke to, just in case you need to refer back to it later. If you are completely new to an area and find yourself in need of an imaging center or breast surgeon, you can also call your insurance company first to see who they cover in your area and narrow it down from there.

Another way to find an imaging center is to do an accredited facility search through The American College of Radiology Accredited Facility Search. This will give you the list of imaging centers that are accredited by the American College of Radiology to perform mammograms. Sometimes facilities can lose their accreditation (for various reasons), so it doesn’t hurt to double-check before you go. You can also look up a provider’s license to confirm that it is still active through the Virginia Department of Health Professions. Bonus tip: if a doctor’s license is close to expiring (which you can see on the site), that means they are likely studying to retake their boards, which means that they will be super up-to-date on medical literature!

When it comes to establishing a relationship with an imaging center or a new provider, you can do all of the background work, but the most important thing is to trust your gut. If you walk into the office and the atmosphere doesn’t feel right, or you don’t get a good impression from the frontline staff, or your doctor brushes off your questions, it is ok to find somewhere new, even if the place seemed perfect “on paper.” You know your care needs best, and if you don’t connect with a provider, you are less likely to be open with them about those needs, which could lead to worse outcomes for you in the long run. Do you have any other tips on how to find an imaging center or provider? Let me know at

Image by William Iven from Pixabay.

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