Sunday, June 16, 2024 Jun 16, 2024
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“I want a doctor who smokes, is overweight and takes a drink now and then.”

Finding the right doctor is a quest that is as personal as it is important. That’s why Robert Heath, executive officer of the Dallas County Medical Society, wasn’t surprised when presented with the above order.

“She wanted an internist who was familiar with her lifestyle,” Heath says of the woman with the unusual request. That example illustrates his own best advice when seeking a doctor: “Only you can find the right doctor for you.”

Thousands of people each year begin their search for a doctor at their local Medical Society office, where they are given three physicians1 names based on individual criteria: things like the type of doctor needed, geographic convenience or hospital affiliation. (Doctors pay a fee to be listed with the Medical Society.) With three names in hand, they’re already ahead of the game, since most of us are more likely to ask friends to recommend a doctor and then go to the first one we call.

The sad truth is that most people spend less time researching their doctors than their next major appliance purchase. Somehow, when faced with a person in a white coat and a name badge that ends in M.D., we just don’t know what to ask.

Following are some suggestions, gleaned from interviews with doctors and health professionals, that can help you find the right doctor for you.

●Even if you need a specialist, start by finding a primary care physician who can then recommend specialists as needed. Internists, family or general practitioners and obstetrician/gynecologists are all considered primary care physicians.

●Wherever you get your list of recommended doctors-from our survey, from the Medical Society, from friends, from another physician or from your Health Maintenan Organization or Preferred Provider Organization-it is a good idea to make an appointment with several doctors for an initial interview. Pay for their time. Your medical needs should be that valuable to you.

● Before you drive all over town, narrowyour list geographically. Convenient locationis a more important qualification for aprimary care physician or long-term treatment program than it is for a specialist youmay see only a few times.

When you get there, what do you ask?

●First, is the doctor qualified and trained for what you need? Was he or she educated at an accredited institution? Is the doctor board-certified for this specialty, indicating achievement of rigorous professional standards?

●How long has the doctor been in practice? Weigh experience and up-to-date training.

●What are the doctor’s policies for emergencies and nights and weekends? Who will be answering your calls?

●What are the doctor’s criteria for making referrals?

●If you are interviewing surgeons, how often do they perform the procedure you need? Results are better when procedures are performed more frequently. What are their records of successful outcome?

●Doctors are only as good as the support systems around them. Are you comfortable with the hospitals where they practice? Do you like their nursing and office staffs?

●Ask about the accounting system. Does the doctor file insurance forms for you, or do you pay up front and then file for reimbursement?

●Don’t forget personality-especially when choosing a primary care physician or one for long-term treatment. You may see a primary care physician for the next 30 years.

Gather facts as if your life depends on it,because it does.