The health of the two candidates running for president has certainly been in the news. But the question is–how do you find a good doctor if you’ve just moved or if you have recently been diagnosed with cancer or a heart condition or something else that requires a specialist? Word of mouth is very often the way someone starts the process, but how one doctor relates and helps your friend might not be the best choice for you. And you don’t want to waste your time and possibly your health simply starting out with any doctor and finding that down the road you made a hasty and wrong choice.
WHEN YOU START THE SEARCH
First keep these two things in mind:
- know what type of insurance you have and if there are any limitations connected to that insurance. Some plans send you a booklet of doctors in their network. You are limited to those.
- YELP and other internet reviews of physicians are often driven by a patient who didn’t improve. The complaint might be related to the doctor’s care, but it also could be related to how compliant the patient was. Something to consider.
Second, when searching for a new physician after a move or a diagnosis, make a list of the things that you truly want in this future doctor and the provided care you are seeking. Here’s a list to consider:
- What hospital is this doctor affiliated with–a local community hospital, a tertiary care center, a university hospital–all or one?? Is this physician’s office and the hospital where she has privileges close to your home or a long drive? In an emergency situation closer will always be better.
- Is this doctor board certified in the speciality that you need? Internal medicine board certification is a good place to start if your general health is good. But you may need a cancer or cardiac specialist etc, and that will narrow your choices. (Note: often getting an internist in a university group is the best way to go as that physician can then refer you to say an ear, nose and throat, a surgeon or an orthopedic doctor etc in his group.)
- If you have trouble speaking English, that’s also a consideration. It’s always good if you are terribly worried about your physical health or running a fever or vomiting or a cancer patient etc that you bring someone with you to your appointment. But it’s not always possible and if language is an issue, you need to make sure you will always be able to communicate with your doctor. Misinformation can lead to your getting sicker or even hospitalization and death.
- The age of the doctor you choose or his or her years in practice might also be on your list of concerns. Some people want an older doctor who they feel they would be more comfortable with or who would know more. Others want a younger doctor who will be up on new advances in medicine. All physicians are required to stay up-to-date in their specialty through reading and testing and participating in hands-on programs for recertification.
- The gender of your physician might also concern you. (Certainly in the practice of obstetrics and gynecology there has been a major shift–more women in that practice now than men.) But that shouldn’t rule out the skill of male OBGYN’S. When my husband created this list and followed it, his final choice was a female internist physician. I also chose her for my doctor and we have referred her to our friends.
- It’s very important to discover if the doctor you are researching is taking on new patients. You might get all excited that you’ve found one, only to discover the practice is closed.
- Once you have found one or two you are considering, you can verify their board certification here. You can also go to your home state department of consumer affairs to check for any negative reports about this doctor.
- And of course you can Google them. Most doctors will have an online presence, often with a personal photo, phone number, office hours and map to get you to their office.
My husband has specific health issues, so after doing his research he made an appointment with the doctor he was considering, telling her receptionist that he wanted to interview the doctor. Here’s what he learned at that first meeting:
- she was on time and open to discussing his health needs;
- he brought his medical history with him so that she could examine lab results etc and understand his past and present health;
- he determined that she had excellent listening skills and she did not rush him;
- at the end of that 45 minute meeting, she also made a referral for him as he had another health issue that needed immediate attention.
Botom line? He had made the right choice and her care of him has been excellent.
So what criteria is important to you when choosing a doctor? It will vary from person to person, but for me, I have to feel that the doctor values me as an individual and will take the time, if only five minutes, to discuss my concerns. I recently changed a specialist, because the tests I needed had been scheduled way down the road and I wanted information sooner than later. Maybe I panicked a little, but I am very happy with this new doctor who did all the tests that first appointment.
I have also found that being informed and prepared for a doctor visit just might be noted in your chart–you’ll become a so-called favorite patient. So on your end, a few things to do:
- be on time and if you are delayed or cannot make an appointment CALL;
- bring your list of medications with you;
- bring a list of your concerns with you and don’t wait until the appointment is almost over to say I’ve had some serious chest pain!
- if you have to wait, try to be patient; WHY? because your doctor is dealing with another patient who just said “I’ve had some serious chest pain” or something like that.
One final thought. Often your condition will move you to do some internet research before you walk into the doctor’s office. That’s okay. As a nurse, I have done that for years. But a few things to keep in mind to cement a good working relationship with your doctor:
- WAIT. Let your doctor explain first what she feels is your diagnosis. Don’t walk in waving a piece of paper with YOUR conclusion about your case. As the appointment proceeds, use what you have learned on the internet to further explore your condition and ask questions. Depending on the site you used, you might be totally off. And building a good relationship with your physician requires TRUST. To make it very basic, when you have an electrical or plumbing problem in your home, you are eager to have the technician tell you what’s wrong. Most of us don’t research electricity and plumbing before this person arrives. Give your doctor the floor.
- WAIT again. Yes, I’ve had concerns about my health and brought in that piece of paper with my questions or some info from the net. But I ease my way into the question and often before I can even ask it–she’s answered it.
So I’m wishing you the best as you continue your relationship with your doctor or find a new one. The ground work you do is extremely important. You are a candidate for good health and hopefully once you have done your research, the doctor you choose will get your vote.
Thanks to my husband and to Val Jones, founder and CEO of Better Health