Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Finding the Good Doctor!

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.

9 comments:

NJ said...

Michael:
I've enjoyed your comments.
Throughout 20+ years of nursing, I have always been happy to recommend good physicians when asked. Often there are a number of good choices, and I try to match patient and physician personalities. My litmus test has always been: "Would I let this person take care of my own mother".

NJ said...

Michael:
I've been enjoying your thoughts.
Throughout 20+ years of nursing and now as a NP, I have always been happy to make recommendations when asked. Often there are several good choices, and I try to match patient and physician personalities. My no-nonsense friend is referred to a no-nonsense physician, while another who requires a little more TLC is referred to one with more patience. As you have mentioned, patient and physician personalities do not always "click". This doesn't mean he/she is not a good physician, just not necessarily the correct one for that patient. My litmus test of a good physician has always been: "Would I allow that person to care for my own mother?"

Anonymous said...

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Bellaruth Napersack said...

My Dear Doctor,

For me, I have found that by looking at what's right verses what's wrong in anything there is potential for growth well beyond my original expectation.

We all want the best doctor, the best teachers the best bosses, the best environment for our children to learn in, the best music teachers, churches to belong to, as well as temples or what not...

How we find the best is the question here? How we find the best for us is also the question here? How do we even know what the best is?

As you mentioned,in a previous posting.. one may think the Doctor who prescribes antibiotics on the phone is better than the one who insists you make an appt. I would think this is an individual choice.

Right?

You made a decision that medicine is your life. You made a choice when you went to college that you wanted to further your career and go onto Medical School. You elected to continue on through the program of residency, then a fellowship...

Wow! Look at you. What is right about that? Everything and Anything is possible.

If you find that the medical community is corrupt. Get out of it and start doing something that moves you.

Try Traveling..

Anonymous said...

No, the doctors who are true should not get out and find something that moves them, they should stay. Hopefully they can bring positive changes. I think something about being called a healer sounds better than a medical professional. Something about the mentality of a healer suggests they likely feel successful if they heal. Someone interested in healing will have an open mind and likely more interested in each as an individual. Mind, body and spirit. The term medical professional comes across like reading a lot of typing and not knowing how to sort. Is that the goal? My hopes are rising after finding this blog. I think this site offers hope that some people within the system would like change too. Believe me, there are some people who are doctor addicted and there are also many who visit at lunch or hair salons discussing how God awful it is to deal with health needs. To worry how to avoid being harmed by what is unnecessary to begin with is quite a worry. If a need is necessary with a risk that is one thing but being put through unnecessary testing or procedures and then harmed is , something that is often learned the hard way, after the fact. Back to the topic, No, I DON'T think the honest doctors who worry about ethics or unnecessary harm should leave the profession. Why would that be a good idea for a good caring doctor to travel and leave all of us with the scam artists or trained monkeys who don't consider anything other than what they have been taught. Think about fluoride and the dangers. The dentists are taught to fluoride is good for us to drink so they promote it. It is not always that they are involved in a conspiracy. But, there are probably many who buy bottled water and don't want to admit they disagree with the practice. They are conformist. There is something about having too many conformist around that is a problem in itself... We need the type who has this blog, believe me! Anyone telling him to go travel is ???? MISSING SOMETHING.

Anonymous said...

Sorry no paragraph form in the above comment but my telephone was ringing. I meant to say sometimes regardless who is right or wrong, for instance fluoride in the water, after reading a lot of info, pro and con, why can't people just buy it in the water jugs with fluoride at the grocery? Instead, people argue whether it is a good thing or a bad thing and miss the point that people shouldn't be forced medicated by water. My neighbor across the street doesn't have teeth after drinking the fluoride water for years but he still has to drink it with no teeth to keep. The same is true with babies should be on their stomach in earlier years and babies should be on their back now. Thinking is important and thinking outside of what is read in a textbook is important when you question who wrote the textbook. So, people have agendas and you don't want to become part of an agenda that has a motive you don't know or share.

I am so happy to find this blog thinking that is the most encouraging sight, site, in a while. In some cases you can determine a lot about a doctor by trusting your instinct. If something about the office visit or questioning and his response does not "feel" right to you or leaves you uncomfortable that is a red flag. Each doctor I ended up with something unnecessary or harm I had an initial feeling about the person but let what was being said, or sold, overrule my instint. In other words, there is an instinct and you can be talked out of it. Make note if you detect an instinct. There are times when skill is necessary, such as a necessary surgery, that instinct is more difficult. It is difficult to use instinct to determine a person's surgical skill although you might use it to determine if they might be leading you into something you don't need. Other doctors know much more quickly who misleads people, performs too many surgeries or testing, harms people, etc. By the time consumers figure it out and word gets around town too many have been abused.

I have met a few doctors who finally stand up and say I object. Those you never forget.

Oma Jill said...

I believe you shouldn't ignore your intuition (that is if you're in tune with it). I was referred to 2 doctors. One I immediately had a bad gut feeling but because she came recommended I dismissed it. Biggest mistake of my life! She referred me to the second doctor a specialist she sends all her patients to. That was my second mistake that cost me dearly. I've had procedures (multiple) that were deemed urgent to find out by a second opinion not the case. Had I not ignored my intuition I probably wouldn't be where I am now. I feel violated. I've lost trust and am suspicious whether what I'm being told now is for my best interest or theirs! So I decided unless it's life threatening or I'm in extreme pain that I can't manage I will stay away from doctor's! Sad I know but I don't know how to get past that feeling. Even doctor's I trusted in the past I now scrutinize. It has totally damaged the once confident person I was and now I second guess everything never feeling at peace. Any suggestions on that how to regain or restore trust once it's been destroyed?

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

OJ, thanks for your comment. I hope that your future relationships with physicians will be different from your prior ones. As a general response, I would suggest finding a physician when you are well, so that you can decide if you are comfortable with that individual. If you wait until you are ill, then you will not have the opportunity to 'shop around' for a physician that is suited to your personality, medical issues and needs. You might consider discussing your prior disappointments with the new physician, which would be a very useful conversation for both of you. These are general comments, of course, and should not be taken as medical advice of any kind. This blog is only commentary, and not medical care. Nevertheless, I hope this is useful to you.

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