Probably the most important decision you will ever make is the selection of life time partner and where to live and this is followed by selecting a doctor to take care of you when you are sick. This blog will provide you with suggestions on making the right selection of a healthcare provider for you and your family.
Finding the right doctor isn’t easy—and it shouldn’t be. When you put your life in someone else’s hands, you need to feel confident that this is an individual with enough smarts, qualifications, and skills to give you the care you deserve. Don’t look for a doctor like ordering a new computer or mobile phone. It’s far more important than that. You should shop for a doctor the same way you interview a lawyer or an accountant. People know more about how to buy a car than they do about selecting a doctor. It’s not so much a matter of labeling a doctor as “good” or “bad”—you want to go beyond just weeding out physicians who have gotten themselves into professional or legal hot water.
What to Consider
I suggest starting with a primary care doctor who will be the captain of your healthcare ship and he\she can direct you to the most appropriate specialist or sub-specialist should the need arise.
Try to find a blend of the doctor’s experience and his\her personality. If it’s long-term, such as one with a primary care doctor or with a specialist who sees you for an ongoing condition, personality and demeanor will carry more weight than if it’s a one- or two-time encounter with a specialist or surgeon.
Go online and look where a doctor went to medical school and did his residency training. (Resources like U.S. News’s Top Medical Schools shed light on program quality.) But how much emphasis to place on a doctor’s schooling is often questionable. Some medical experts believe that the best medical schools produce better doctors by being more selective and training the future physicians more rigorously. Other doctors have trained outside the country and are also excellent physicians.
Go to Google. Once the candidates are narrowed down to a manageable number, Google is your friend. Most doctors have at least some degree of online presence that can give you valuable insights. What kind of communicator does he appear to be? Does it seem like he’s available via E-mail? Any research papers he’s authored and displays might give you an idea of special interests and strengths, too. But a website is just one evaluation tool, not a deal-breaker.
One call that’s all. It’s smart—and completely within your rights—to set up an introductory phone call or make an appointment to interview any doctor you’re considering. Most doctors will make time to do this. A few leading questions can shed light on a doctor’s decision-making style, and whether she works with patients to design a treatment plan or whether he\she feels strongly that he’s\she’s the doctor and what he\she says goes. For example: “Can I weigh in when I have ideas about my care?” Neither approach is right or wrong.
Finding the Best Primary Care
Everyone needs a primary care doctor trained in treating and managing the usual run of medical problems, from colds to migraines, as well as chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. He will assess your symptoms and, if necessary, direct you to the right specialist. If he’s doing his job correctly, he’ll also coordinate your care, communicating with other doctors you see and making sure nothing slips through the cracks. Besides M.D.’s, nurse practitioners and physician assistants are reasonable options for healthy patients who are interested in wellness care and counseling.
Online resources claiming inside information on physicians are abundant, but most simply list easily attainable contact information and facts about the physician’s medical education, board certification, and possible disciplinary actions. U.S. News’s Top Doctors, a compendium of more than 27,000 physicians nationwide, can identify doctors recommended by their peers based on their clinical skills, including how well they relate to patients, and other qualifications such as education, training, hospital appointments, and administrative posts.
There also are websites like HealthGrades.com or RateMDs.com where patients can post reviews of their doctors.
Calling the office will also give you a chance to avoid discovering after the fact that it’s run like a credit card “customer service” call center or a fine restaurant or hotel. I don’t recommend a practice that can’t answer the phone in a few rings, forces you into a phone tree or keeps you on hold for more than 2 minutes. Spending five minutes on the phone with the receptionist will tell you how far in advance you need to make appointments, the length of a typical office visit, and whether the doctor usually sticks to the appointment schedule or is two hours behind by noon. If you hear that the doctor is very busy and doesn’t keep to his schedule well, and if you’re someone who needs to come in and be seen without a long wait, you’ll know right away that it won’t be a good fit. Some doctors understand that their patients’ time is important, and some even offer gifts or money back for enduring excessive wait time. While that’s by no means the norm, an office that doesn’t value timeliness or efficiency may be a deal breaker.
How the office is organized will affect your convenience, too. You’ll want to know whether lab work or X-rays can be done in the office, or if you’ll need to go elsewhere. If the doctor is totally booked, can you see someone else in the practice? Are Saturday morning or late afternoon hours available? What time does the practice open and close, and how will those hours work with your schedule? Is he available via E-mail, as an increasing number of physicians are?
Experts consider board certification one of the best indicators of competency and training. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2010, for example, described a “robust relationship” between board certification and quality of care. It isn’t hard to understand why. A board-certified specialist has gone through a rigorous residency followed by more training in the specialty and finally testing and peer evaluation (plus periodic recertification). A doctor’s board status can be checked at CertificationMatters.org. The American Board of Medical Specialties recognizes more than 150 specialties and subspecialties, including family practice, internal medicine, surgery, cardiology, and orthopedics.
The more often a doctor performs a procedure, the better he gets and the lower the chance of calamity. It follows that the more cases he sees like yours, the likelier the results will be good. Finding out is surprisingly simple, and good doctors wish more patients would make the effort. You only need to ask directly how many patients like you the doctor has seen over a recent period and how they fared. If you’re discussing heart bypass surgery, for example, what you want to know is the number of these procedures the specialist has performed in the past 12 or 24 months on patients in your age group in similar physical and medical condition and the death and complication rates for those patients. To put the answers in perspective, ask if there are national benchmarks to use as comparison.
Bottom Line: Selecting a physician is one of life’s most important decisions. Your life depends on it. These are suggestions that may help make the process easier, less daunting, and likely that you will find the right match for you and your family.