Each PCS move means finding new medical care. We’re here to help you do it right.

When a new PCS move is looming, you probably focus first on finding a new home. That’s vital, of course. But one of the things that may be last on your list-finding the right new doctors-can be incredibly important.

After choosing which form of TRICARE is best for your family, you’re handed that form or directed to a website, and told to choose a doctor from a long list of names that might as well be a compilation of America’s Most Wanted. Who are these people? Which one will do the best job of helping you and your family members-especially those with chronic conditions-be as healthy as possible?

Don’t leave it to chance. Choosing your next doctor (or “primary care provider,” in health care lingo) is critical. So we’ve asked Barbara Cohoon, Ph.D and deputy of government relations and health policy for the National Military Family Association, for her expert advice. She suggests doing the following, even before you enter the TRICARE office or hit the website:

Hand-carry your records from your old office.

Even if you and your family are generally healthy, it’s still helpful to have copies of the last two or three doctor visits, and lists of your prescriptions and immunizations.

Check out medicare.gov

As part of health care reform, hospitals and doctors will soon be required to report their “quality outcomes” in order to receive government health care funds. Many individual doctors haven’t begun reporting yet, but some hospitals have started. To find the listing, visit www.medicare.gov, click on “Resource Locator” and try “Hospital Compare” or “Physician Compare.” Military hospitals may not be listed for direct comparison.

Use word of mouth.

Ask your friends (in person or through baseguide.com) for recommendations, especially those who have similar medical conditions or needs (if you have young children, ask friends who also do). Don’t rely solely on websites as a primary source of information, because comments can be posted by anyone. If you can, ask those in the local medical field which doctors they think are a “good match” for your family.

Get details on doctors you can choose from.

What are their hours? Is there more than one doctor in the practice that takes TRICARE? Can you get same-day appointments or urgent care? What treatments or diagnostic tools are available in the office: Stitches? X-rays? If you need a prescription called in, or have a medical need on a weekend or while out of town, can this doctor help?

Visit the office.

We know how busy you are. But Cohoon highly recommends visiting a new physician BEFORE you need them. Look around the office: Is it clean and well maintained? Do you like the doctor and staff personally? Does the office feel overly hectic? Are sick kids kept separate from well kids in the waiting area?

For complex cases, seek a case manager.

If you are having trouble getting the hand-off you need between insurance entities, doctors and referrals, ask for help from a case manager or your primary care physician at your former home.

For most families, it’s best to stay enrolled in the old TRICARE region with the old primary care physician until you’re settled in your new home. If someone falls ill before your new enrollment, call TRICARE for specific directions and authorization for care.

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