Collaborative teams, care coordination, shared decision-making, patient engagement, patient-centered care – these terms all imply an interactive trusting relationship between doctors and patients. However if you do not have the right doctor, someone you can talk with, question, depend on for information resources to help explain your health issues, and be there for you when you have a problem, none of this works.
How do you find the doctor who is right for you? The most common way that most people find their special doc is by asking their friends, co-workers, neighbors and family for a recommendation. However, those personal recommendations often do not work. Therefore you have to embark on a mission –quite similar to the steps you would take to find a home decorator, wedding planner, lawyer or accountant: research, interview, first encounter, evaluation, decision.
When looking for a doctor there is specific information that you will want to know:
1. What is the doctor’s specialty and does that match your health issues? You can check out the doctor’s certification status with the http://www.abms.org/or at healthgrades http://www.healthgrades.com/
2. What is the doctor’s background i.e. what medical school did he/she attend and where did he/she train after medical school?
3.Has this physician passed the required medical boards (that information, as well as information on whether the doctor has ever faced any sort of disciplinary action can be found by contacting your state medical board.
4.Does this doctor accept your medical insurance? (Check with your insurer and they should be able to provide you with a list)
5. Is the doctor conveniently located near your home or work? Does he/she have evening or weekend hours?
7. How long has this doctor been practicing this medical specialty? Has he/she published any papers? Is he/she involved with any medical organizations?
8. Is the doctor in a solo or group practice? You will probably have a better experience in a group practice where there is 24/7 coverage, and where the group has invested in technology including electronic health records.
For primary care doctors, many of these answers can be found at the American Board of Internal Medicine, http://www.abim.org/, or the American Board of Family Medicine, https://www.theabfm.org/diplomate/index.aspxe.
Other factors to consider are whether or not this doctor has evening or weekend hours or whether the office will schedule same day appointments for urgent care. There are web resources to help you find information on doctors, including the following:
www.healthgrades.com**(**easiest to navigate and quickly find the information you need.)
Your doctor is someone with whom you want to have a long-term relationship so it is definitely permissible to request an introductory phone call. An individual who refuses to do this might not be the right person for you. Some of the personal questions you need answered before making your choice:
1. Are you choosing a primary care physician or a specialist? The criteria are different.
2. Do gender, language, racial differences matter to you?
3. Will the doctor communicate with you between office visits and about treatment options and choices?
4. What hospital is the doctor affiliated with and is it a place where you would be comfortable if you had to go there? You can check unbiased hospitals ratings through consumer reports http://www.consumerreports.org/health/doctors-hospitals/hospital-ratings.htm, from the Leapfrog Group, http://www.leapfroggroup.org/ a voluntary program focused on quality and safety issues in health care.
Other sites for checking hospitals include:
U.S. News and World Report annual survey. http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/rankings
There is nothing more comforting than to know that when you have a serious health issue you have a great medical team that will take good care of you. Putting in the effort and time to find the right doctor who is willing to work with you to insure that you will have the best possible outcome will pay off in spades.