The physician you entrust to yourself and your family should be someone who brings you complete peace of mind. Too often, patients feel that they’ve become “stuck” with a doctor, either for the whole family or for themselves as individuals, instead of weighing the options and understanding that other doctors are out there. It’s unnecessary – not to mention unhealthy – to stick with a physician who is not providing you the care you rightfully deserve, or, who simply doesn’t impress you.
The average patient might feel that they don’t know enough about medicine or a doctor’s “credentials,” to make the call about what is best. This is an unfortunate way to think, because patients have every right to select a doctor that suits their needs, and to move on if that doesn’t happen. The following steps can help you determine how to choose a physician for yourself or your family and how to know when it’s time to find someone else.
Choosing a New Doctor
First, we’ll discuss how to choose a new doctor. Perhaps you’ve recently moved to a new area and need to find a physician for your family. Or, perhaps you’ve made the decision to leave a previous doctor (a topic we’ll discuss shortly) and thus are looking for someone else.
Consult Your Network
Think about the people you surround yourself with every day: your coworkers, the parents who serve on the PTA with you, your neighbors and friends. The best information is word-of-mouth and these folks are your resources for tough decisions like choosing a new doctor. Don’t forget to choose people who share similar needs to your own and your family’s–in other words, if you are getting ready to have a baby you wouldn’t ask your 85-year-old neighbor to recommend someone when your other neighbor has an infant. However, asking everyone you trust is probably a good idea – just narrow it down to the suggestions that you feel suit you the best.
Research and Prepare Questions Before Meeting
Possibly the most important part in choosing a doctor is to prepare a list of questions for both your own research and for your initial consultation.
The initial questions, most likely addressed during your research, should cover everything from whether the doctor is covered by your insurance plan (and if you don’t have insurance, if you can afford the doctor out of pocket), to the office’s location near your home and the local hospital of your preference. Don’t even think of calling the office for a “New Patient” appointment, which are often 15 minutes long and as expensive as a regular appointment, before you’ve exhausted your early research options.
Once you’ve spoken with community, researched, and determined whether it’s worth your time to meet the new doctor, it is time to set up an appointment. Bring a piece of paper to the appointment with the rest of your questions. Some you may want to consider are:
Does the doctor encourage preventative medicine, like routine checkups and immunizations?
In the event that you need the doctor and he or she is unavailable, who will be a substitute?
What lab does the doctor work with or is there a lab in-house?
Does the doctor perform his or her own surgery, and if not, who does?
Of course, you’ll probably come up with more questions on your own, especially if you weren’t able to answer everything through research.
Don’t be afraid to bring your children or spouse to meet the doctor. Their opinions are important. And if you don’t get the impression you want upon meeting the physician, despite liking the answers to all of these questions, it is probably best to go with your gut and scout out someone else. You want to feel comfortable with your decision emotionally, not just logically.
When to Move On From a Doctor
There may come a time when you decide to cut ties with your family physician. Remember to trust yourself – if you do not like your doctor, take your business elsewhere. Here is a list of reasons addressing when it may be time to switch doctors.
You aren’t getting better and you feel justified in seeking other options and opinions.
This is probably the most obvious. If a health issue is not getting solved – or worse, you don’t think there is anything wrong with you and your doctor keeps ordering tests – it may be time to head out.
Your children aren’t at ease with the doctor.
OK, we know kids don’t like the doctor any more than anyone else does. But if your children never calm down or feel relaxed (and you know what’s normal for your children) it’s a sure sign.
You don’t like the office staff, nurses, or “mood.”
If the nurses are constantly rude and the front desk person is grouchy about appointments, find a different office.
You or your spouse has a “bad feeling.”
It’s as easy as trusting your own intuition when it comes to something important like your health.
[About the Author: As the CEO of Vertical Health, patient care advocate Bill Paquin works to convey accurate health information to consumers. He operates web sites including SpineUniverse.com and other sites focused on improving patient care associated with back pain and endocrine disorders. Bill is a husband, father and chronic pain sufferer who writes about improving our current healthcare system.]