Your Health: What Makes a Good Doctor? Some Answers.

Your Health: What Makes a Good Doctor? Some Answers.

Choosing a doctor is not like selecting a friend, and certainly not like picking a car salesman. Yes, medicine is a type of business transaction. The doctor is providing a service and you want excellent care.

You also want a great car at the right price–another business transaction. But you only deal with the car person over a short period of time. Health is another matter. A doctor is someone you will probably deal with  frequently and bottom line: this is your health; this is your life. You need to make the right choice.

So keep in mind, after reading this post, that during the process of finding the right doctor you can: 1. read about a prospective doctor on line; 2. ask friends who they use or would avoid; 3. actually interview the doctor during a short appointment. 


Seventeen nurses, physicians and healthcare workers replied to your question. These are folks who work in the trenches–so I paid attention to their answers. Below are the ones I felt you needed to know.

  1. “Any great anything–friend, partner, doctor–is going to listen to you. You are exposing yourself, you are vulnerable. You want them to hear you, respect you.
  2. The doctor shows that she has time for you. Though the doctor might know a great deal, she also must care a great deal.
  3. The doctor should show interest not only in your complaint (back pain) but also in your concern (I babysit and can’t lift my grandson.)
  4. Often a patient is embarrassed relating information about their condition. When the doctor starts asking questions, they must be good listeners, know when to probe a bit further. D. “Are you sexually active?” P. “Well, I’m married.” D. “Okay, but what does that mean?”
  5. A great doctor is more interested in getting you off medications than on them. 
  6. A doctor should explain, when prescribing a new medication, what the patient’s life will be like, the side-effects, of that new drug. 
  7. Though a doctor may have been seeing you over the years, a great doctor does not make assumptions about your life. She/he asks questions to get to answers like: “I lost my job.” I fell two weeks ago.”
  8. If you are accompanied by a family member, a great doctor realizes that you might not have shared everything and provides a phone number for a later call. Also repeats the care plan before the visit is over. 
  9. Though doctors see patients an average of every 20 minutes, a good doctor slows down, pays attention, to pick up on many more things.
  10. If you have a friend who is a nurse and works in the hospital of the doctor you are considering, ask that nurse who she would pick. Nurses see who does well and who doesn’t.
  11. A great doctor asks so many questions you might want them to stop. But this is good. It’s your health history. It matters. Not-so-great doctors don’t ask much of anything at all.
  12. A great doctor reads, stays up with what in the biz is called “the literature.” That means the most recent medical articles that analyze and research procedures, medications, surgeries etc.
  13. A great doctor wants you to understand. If you hear: “I’m the doctor and I’ll do the thinking,”–run out the door.
  14. A great OB doctor is empathetic, expresses his or her concern if you have a miscarriage, BEFORE explaining why or discussing your medical care.
  15. You have chest pain. A great doctor listens to your whole story to determine the right path to take, uses what they know. Most patients with chest pain need Zantac, not an angioplasty.
  16. A great doctor considers the whole person, like a patient with diabetes who might have a difficult home environment or be unable to travel to a grocery for healthy food. Is their neighborhood safe to walk in to get to the store? Can they afford to buy their meds?


What hospital is this doctor affiliated with–a local community hospital, a tertiary care center, a university hospital? 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.

  1. 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: 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.)
  2. 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. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 his list for an internist, his final choice was a female internist physician. I also chose her for my doctor and we have referred her to our friends.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 as mentioned above, you can research them online for address, phone number etc.

You might also enjoy: You’re A Candidate for a Good Doctor

Bring Your List of Questions to the Doc’s Office–they have a list too!

Thanks to Stock

Thanks to the AARP BULLETIN Sept. 2017


8 thoughts on “Your Health: What Makes a Good Doctor? Some Answers.

  1. Excellent, Excellent, EXCELLENT tops!!! As a former pharmaceutical rep for decades I knew which docs were the best what offices to avoid even if a good doc worked there, etc. After I left the field my doc retired, then the next one I chose retired and I was left in the lurch! I recommend adding to your list the age of your doctor. Electronic records make it easy to move your info but health care changes may make it necessary to find some one new.

    • Thanks, Haralee. Do you feel that it is in a client’s best interest to have a younger doctor? I’m reading that between the lines of your response. Beth

  2. I learned the hard way that you really have to shop around for doctors and find the right fit. I had a pediatrician for my kids who I really liked, had used him since my first son was born, but at one point there was an issue with my younger son and I really did not think he was hearing me. It finally dawned on me that this was not the doctor for our family.

    • That is good and smart parenting. There are differences in doctors, big differences, and we as patients/clients have every right to move on and choose someone else. Beth

  3. Instincts have always played an important part in my life, and when it comes to people, they are usually pretty good. I lived in Los Angeles from 1972 until Elektra Entertainment moved me to New York in 1994. Before I moved, I had visited a Dr. Sogol for a few months, who was very close to my age…..a huge bonus. We had a strong relationship and he was a good listener. After I moved to New York, I had an older doctor, who was helpful, but I never felt close to him. I returned to LA in 2001 and when I walked into Dr. Sogol’s office after 7 years, he remembered my name, where I had been, and welcomed me back. He has been my doctor ever since 🙂
    The advice here, in Boomer Highway, is fantastic……but as always, the relationship is the basis for success.

    • Yes, I agree. We had a sometimes contentious relationships with John’s oncologist–at least I did. He didn’t like my research. But in the end, my research was necessary and save the day. Patients should have at least some say in what is happening to their bodies.

  4. fI love this post. As a serial caregiver, I don’t think you can hear this often enough. Just because your loved one is going to a doctor, as a caregiver, if you’re not getting this kind of ‘treatment’ that you describe here, you may have to move on. I think this post is invaluable. I will definitely be sharing! Thanks so much!

    • Thanks YOU Cathy. I often find articles that underline the importance of having the RIGHT DOCTOR and knowing how to use the TIME with that doctor. They work for us. Beth

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