One of the reasons people put off having potentially problematic heart issues checked out is that they don’t know how to find the right cardiologist, or even where to begin. It can be a daunting process, especially if you don’t feel that you’re in an emergency situation.

If you think you might be on the path to a heart problem (or if you already have one), here are a few steps to add to your cardiologist search process. Remember that, especially with heart issues, time is key.

Consider Convenience

Something that often gets left off the list when looking for the right doctor is convenience. When it comes to heart problems, you could be making several visits for testing, diagnosis and follow-up, you need to be seeing a doctor you can get to easily. You should also see a doctor who practices in or near the hospital of your choice. This will help if you go to that medical facility for other health issues, and it will make the exchange of medical information go more smoothly.

Check Your Coverage

A good place to start when researching who will be the best cardiologist for you is with your own health insurance company. First of all, they’ll have information about certifications, specialties and qualifications. But more importantly, unless you’re very wealthy, you’ll need to see someone in your network so it’s covered by your insurance. When it comes down to it, your health is the most important and you need to choose the doctor who will be the best for you, but starting with the doctors who are covered in your plan could save your life and your financial well-being.

Research Specialties, Credentials and Reputation

Once you have list of cardiologists convenient to you and in your health insurance network, it’s time to buckle down and do the real research. First, you need a cardiologist who specializes in the type of issue you have, if you know it. Your general practitioner should be able to help you figure this out. Check for credentials like advanced and continuing education, board certifications and fellowships.

Then, check the doctor’s reputation. See if he writes for respected journals or has been asked by peers to speak at events. Check online discussions to see how the community feels about the doctor you’re researching. It’s also helpful to check out the medical facility where the cardiologist has privileges or practices. If you have questions about the facility's reputation, you should also have questions about the doctor’s reputation. Plus, if you need surgery or a stay for observation, that’s where you’ll be.

Test the Chemistry

Once you’ve got your list narrowed down, it’s time to meet with some physicians. You have to see if the chemistry is right. You need to make sure the cardiologist listens to you and communicates with you well. You have to determine if they have the right level of bedside manner for you. Even if everyone you know has told you someone is a great doctor, if the chemistry isn’t right for you, you need to move on. You have to be comfortable with your choice so you are more open and you know your needs are being met. Heart trouble can be very serious and if you and your cardiologist don’t communicate well, something could be missed and your life could be at risk.

Be Your Own Advocate

Finally, when you’ve started to see your new cardiologist, always make sure you’re being heard and you’re speaking up for yourself. If there are symptoms you think are being ignored, ask about them again. If there are tests you think aren’t being done, request them. Get answers to all your questions. Make your cardiologist take time with you to be clear about what's being discussed and give you time to write down what you're being told. And, if you don’t think you’ve been properly diagnosed, or your treatment doesn’t seem to be helping, get another opinion. In some cases, it could take two or three professional opinions to get an accurate diagnosis. You have to be your own best advocate.

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