Choosing a doctor is a bit like choosing a spouse. When you choose well you find comfort, support, and safety. When you choose poorly . . . not so much. As a doctor, I often see my patients at their most vulnerable. They may be scared, anxious, in pain, embarrassed, or all of the above. My job is to listen, take a thorough history, perform an examination, diagnose the problem, and make a treatment recommendation. But beyond that I should be gaining your trust, assuring you of my competency, and treating you with compassion. It’s not a small task. But a good physician will do ALL of these things.
I hate to admit it, but there are some bad apples out there on both doctor and patient side of the equation. Some doctors have no bedside manner, are chronically late, and never wash their hands. (Ugh, gross!) And then there are patients who jump from one doctor to the next, ignore all medical advice, and blame everyone but themselves for their medical ailments. Finding the right doctor has to be the right fit for both of you.
So as a patient, what are you to do? How do you know who to trust?
6 Tips to Finding a Great Doctor
- Decide what is most important to you. Do you need your prostate removed and simply want the best surgeon available? Are you looking for a new primary care doctor who’s a good listener and will spend time talking with you? Are you a working mom who doesn’t have time for long waits and inefficient offices? Make sure your goals align with the qualities of the doctor and practice you’re researching.
- Ask friends and colleagues.The best doctors have ways of making patients feel comfortable, while the worst doctors can’t hide their deficiencies. Personal recommendations are usually more trustworthy. Just make sure your friend values the same qualities in a doctor that you do.
- Approach internet reviews with caution and common sense. I’ll admit it, I google myself. I do want to know what my patients are saying about me. Mine are mostly very positive reviews. But like any service provider, physicians are susceptible to the evils of trolling. I’d place more trust in the reviews that have actual comments. If a patient took the time to type a personal review of my practice it’s more likely to be legitimate than than the 1-star review from Mr. Nameless.
- Ask a doctor you already trust. Doctors can’t hide from their colleagues. If there’s bad doctor in the community, I’ll usually hear about. Don’t expect me to bad mouth a colleague, but I may guide you to an alternative provider. And if I rave about a colleague, you can feel sure that I’d happily send my loved ones to them. Occasionally I hear patients accuse doctors of having financial incentives to refer patients to their “friends.” Nope, this is absolutely illegal and just doesn’t happen.
- Give the doctor a test run. Come see me! If you don’t like me or feel it’s not a “good fit” then that’s ok. No feelings hurt, I promise. Now, I can’t promise that other doctors won’t have their ego bruised if you choose to go elsewhere. But if they do, you’ve probably made the right choice.
- Ask to speak to one of their existing patients. If you’re going to have surgery or a procedure that carries significant risk or isn’t routine, then you may feel more comfortable speaking to someone who has already had the procedure. Experience can be our best teacher.
I hope this will help you feel empowered to find a great doctor who will be the correct fit for you. Do not stay in the care of a doctor you do not like or that you distrust! There are too many excellent physicians out there for you to choose from. And while we’re on the subject, if you happen be in the market for a urologist, schedule a consultation with me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I am confident that if you’ve taken the time to read this post, we’re probably a good match. And if not…well, I’m sure I’ll hear about it on Facebook.
Here’s to your health!