Top Tips for Finding the Best Doctor, Hospital and Surgeon

With soaring prices, supply shortages and growing wait lists for most goods and services — not to mention a virus that continues to disrupt the workforce — it’s tough to be a consumer right now, including a health care consumer.

Back in September, the AARP Bulletin Published a package of stories called “Beat the System” that detailed how to get the best possible customer service. Readers told us they found the advice collection hugely helpful. So in that spirit, we’re back with a new edition of “Beat the System,” this time focusing on how to find the health experts and health services you need in these challenging times.

Our team of reporters interviewed dozens of insiders about how to separate the best from the rest, and their advice follows. But the experts also noted that certain approaches are timeless and universal — meaning they are still applying right now. So to start, here are the universal rules for finding the best in health care (and anything, really), 2022 style.

Rule 1: Take appropriate time

Yes, when competition is hot, you want to be flexible and move quickly when quality products or services come available. Even so, “big decisions shouldn’t be fast decisions,” says Terrance Odean, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and an expert in behavioral finance. Do the due diligence required and take the time to verify you are getting a real deal. And absolutely “no decisions at 3 am,” he says.

Rule 2: Research is free

Take advantage of the vast amount of free information available on the internet, social media and beyond to investigate the experts or services you are interested in. Start with price and reputation, of course, then get into the weeds, like efficiency ratings, certifications and areas of expertise. But put little stock in user ratings. Online reviews are bought, and there’s no way to verify their authenticity. If you wish to scan, look for specific anecdotes and a personal writing style that a paid reviewer (or computer program) couldn’t generate.

Rule 3: Set priorities

Great decision-making lies in the art of filtering. That requires knowing what features or skills are most important to you; use that to pare down your choices, says Katy Milkman, author of How to Change: The Science of Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.

Rule 4: Pretend you’re making a mistake

Many of us are overconfident about how a choice will turn out, Milkman says. For a reality check, she suggests envisioning what could go wrong with your choice. Better to think about this now rather than later in order to help you prepare for — and possibly prevent — things that could go awry.

Rule 5: Involve other humans

A productive half hour on the internet can make you feel smart. Perhaps too smart. The golden rule: Always find a responsible friend, family member or adviser — “preferably someone who is as good or even better at decisions as you,” says Odean — and get into the habit of asking for his or her feedback before making a big decision.

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