Here are some pointers in how to choose a good physician. Remember, while these tips offer guidance, there is no guaranteed method to rely upon.
- Ask friends and coworkers who their doctors are and why they like them. Keep in mind that they may like their doctors for the wrong reasons. If a neighbor recommends his doctor, because “he prescribes antibiotics over the phone whenever I want them”, then you may have learned something important – choose another physician. Conversely, a person may be dissatisfied with a doctor who truly performed well. For example, a patient may complain because his doctor wouldn’t give him a refill on addictive sleeping pills. While I encourage canvassing opinions about local physicians, use these recommendations cautiously.
- Ask hospital nurses for their advice. They see physicians working when doctors don’t know they’re being watched. They are an unrivaled source for obtaining a candid review of medical professionals. They know who is caring and conscientious, who spends time with patients and families, who communicates with consultants, who returns to the hospital when necessary and who puts patients first. Contact a few nurses at your local hospital and ask for 3 physician references. They will be delighted to speak with you. This is my hottest tip, yet, nearly no one follows it.
- Generate a list of 4-6 physicians to consider. Contact their offices and find out when the next available appointment is. If it’s in 3 months, then this physician might be too busy for you.
- Ask how much time the doctor allots for a new patient. If it’s 15 minutes, and you have chronic medical issues, then this might not be the right choice.
- Find out the logistics of the practice. Does the doctor see patients in multiple offices some of which may be far away? If a patient needs an urgent appointment, does one of the physician’s partners or a nurse practitioner see the patient? Does the doctor treat his patients in the hospital or does he refer them to other physicians?
- Who takes the doctor’s calls after hours? The doctor who will be taking your emergency call at night might be much more important to you than your regular physician.
- Narrow your list to 2 or 3 doctors and interview them. Get a sense of their style and manner. Does the doctor listen? Do you feel rushed? Is the office staff courteous and attentive? Can you picture yourself as a patient in this particular practice?
These tips will take you far, but not necessarily to the goal line. You may not get it right on the first try. Nevertheless, this is likely a better strategy to select a doctor than flipping through the yellow pages or resorting to eenie, meenie, miney moe.
Remember, you are not just trying to find a good doctor. You want to find one who is right for you.