How to pick the right doctor
We live in an era of “choices” in every aspect of our lives and they feel infinite. We are flooded with technology that will help us choose the right gadgets or houses to buy, select a restaurant for the weekend or pick the right mate and so on. But when it comes to choosing your health care giver, we usually go with the flow and find ourselves in a doctor’s office chosen (referred) by another doctor. That’s mostly alright, but if you want to be more involved, you should probably start with a directory of doctors that your insurance carrier will provide.
You might be on your own to find the right doctor among that long list. Start with a hospital/clinic which is close to where you live and has a good reputation.
The truth is you will not have a real sense about whether a doctor is right for you until you meet him (her). It’s like dating, right? Here are some clues/tips to spot a good match:
They always count. You will know the difference when your doctor enters the room, greets and sits across from you. How much eye contact are you being offered? Does the doctor know enough about your existing conditions? Is he (she) listening to you? Do you feel like you are being given enough time, space and privacy? These are simple but important clues.
First step is to make sure your doctor is board-certified in his (her) field. Check http://www.certificationmatters.org/. There will always be strong exceptions to this but picking a doctor at their mid career is probably a wise choice. Doctors are considered “seasoned” after they worked professionally of at least 5 years past their training including residency and fellowship. Medicine is a fast changing discipline and it requires constant refreshing and updating of existing knowledge and skills. Therefore fewer doctors are able to keep up with it as they approach to their retirement.
Probe the team
You will meet several people in clinic before you sit across the doctor: secretaries, medical assistants and nurses. They probably work with him (her) everyday. Ask them what they think about the doctor. Their genuine comment will count more than any web rating.
Chemistry (or not)
This is a hard one to define. It is not very common but you might be sitting across a great and accomplished doctor, great on paper and praised by many patients and colleagues but he (she) might not be a good fit for you.
Is the doctor using an easy-to-follow, friendly language? Is he (she) taking time to explain your condition in a clear way and answer your questions to satisfaction? Think about how you feel when you leave the clinic: relieved, reassured, confused or even scared? It is important that you trust your caregiver and feel comfortable. Otherwise, feel free to ask the option of switching to another doctor even within the same practice especially if you like the hospital/clinic. Having the right doctor is an important long term relationship which is worth the search.
Written by Dr. Hande Tuncer MD, who is a hematologist practicing in the Boston area.