Finding a Doctor

Why would someone you support be looking for a doctor?
There are many reasons why a person may need a new doctor.  They may have:
  • Moved
  • Changed insurance plans
  • Had health changes and started needing a different doctor
  • Decided they don’t like their current doctor
They may also need or want a specialist (for example, a doctor who focuses on problems of the digestive system)
It is also possible that their former doctor may have:
  • Moved or quit working 
  • Recommended that they see a different doctor or specialist 
  • Stopped taking the person’s insurance
If someone you support needs a new doctor, they might want your help.  Ask if you can help them locate a doctor.

A quick note on health insurance: It is important to know what kind of health insurance the person you support has before you start looking for a doctor.  Most people with developmental disabilities have Medi-Cal.  Medi-Cal is a form of health insurance paid for by the government.  Many doctors do not accept Medi-Cal payments.  Find out if the person you support uses Medi-Cal before you start looking for a doctor.  If they do, make sure you find a doctor who takes Medi-Cal payments.

How do you find a doctor?

The best way to find a doctor for a person with developmental disabilities is toask the person’s Regional Center service coordinator for recommendations.

You can also try these other ways to find a doctor:
  • If the person you support needs a specialist, ask their regular doctor for a referral. 
  • Ask the staff at your local hospital or clinic. 
  • Ask agencies that have special programs for people with disabilities.
  • If the person you support uses Medi-Cal: 
  • Call the local Medi-Cal office and ask for a list of doctors who accept Medi-Cal.
  • Call the county Pubic Health office.  Ask them which doctors see people with disabilities and accept Medi-Cal.
What should you look for in a doctor?

After finding a doctor, you should check and see if they meet the needs of the person you support.  Here are some questions you might ask:
  • Is the doctor experienced in caring for people with disabilities?
  • Does the doctor take the individual’s health plan (Medi-Cal or their private insurance)? 
  • Does the doctor's staff have experience serving people with special needs? 
  • Is it easy to get to the office?  Is it near public transportation?
  • Is the office accessible for individuals with disabilities – for example, does it have ramps and elevators for people who use wheelchairs? 
  • Does the doctor have special equipment to accommodate people with disabilities (for example, does the doctor have equipment to transfer a person from their wheelchair to the examination table)? 
  • When is the doctor's office open?  Is there a way to reach the doctor or a substitute when the office is closed? 
  • Does the doctor have a help line or advice nurse that you or the person you support can call to ask questions? 
  • How soon can the doctor see the person you support?
How do you find out more about a doctor?

Here are some other ways to find out if the doctor can meet the needs of the person you support:
  • Ask other people who see that doctor
  • Talk to the doctor or their staff over the telephone 
  • Ask the individual’s insurance person 
  • Look the doctor up on the Internet
  • Some doctors have personal websites.  Or, you can look for websites where people can rate their doctors such as or
  • Make an appointment for the person you support to meet the doctor.  After the appointment, ask the person how they felt about the doctor. 
  • Did they feel comfortable with the doctor? 
  • Did they like the doctor’s office and staff?
Meeting the Doctor
After they find a doctor, the person you support may want help making an appointment with the doctor, or getting to the doctor's office.

If they are worried or confused about going to see the doctor, you can use the following presentations to help explain to them how to get ready, and what will happen when they go: