Selecting a doctor can be as confusing as picking out the perfect lipstick. Youre standing in the drug store, fluorescent lighting beating down and youre having the worst time choosing between the mauvey pink or the pink with just a hint of plum.
Similarly, one doctor may seem just as good as another, but actually, the opposite is true. There is a doctor out there who is the perfect fit for you. (Just as the mauvey pink looks the best with your skin tone.) Finding your medical soul mate can seem a daunting task, but Cincy Chic is here to help with a user-friendly guide to finding a great doctor.
Get a Referral
If, when looking for a doctor, you become overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices, ask help from someone close to you to narrow it down, says Dr. Carl Rafey, owner of Rafey Chiropractic on Kipling Avenue.
One thing I recommend, Rafey says, is that you want to look for a referral from a friend or family member, someone who has had a positive experience with that doctor in the past.
This is an effective method because the person recommending the doctor presumably knows you very well, and therefore has a good idea of how you would mesh with the doctor in question.
Another referral route is to talk to the head nurse in the hospital or practice, advises Dr. Jacqueline T. Hanson, an OB/GYN physician in Fort Thomas, Ky. This is a method Hanson employed herself once when her child was sick on vacation. She called the Labor and Delivery/Birthing Center of the local hospital and asked to speak with the nurse in charge. Hanson asked her which doctor she took her children to or who she would recommend. We were referred to one of the best, and when we are on vacation we still use the physician when necessary, she says.
Head nurses are valuable witnesses. They work with physicians on a daily basis, observing them work under stress and through major emergencies or complicated illnesses or situations. Paperwork and credentials do not always indicate a great physician, Hanson says.
Get a Second (or Third) Opinion
Youve heard what your loved ones have to say about a certain doctor, but youre still unsure. Another way to find the right doctor for you is to get information from a third party. In other words, have a chat with a past or existing patient of your possible physician.
Call the office and ask if they have any second opinions or a patient who has the same issue as you, Rafey says. Talk to that person for input on what to expect from the doctor.
Its a great way to find out how well the doctor in question handled a condition similar to your own, without having to talk to someone associated directly with the office, who may just tell you what he or she thinks you want to hear.
Talk to other people who have had a good experience with that doctor, Rafey says.
Have a Talk with the Doc
Once youve had the pertinent talks with people about your possible healthcare provider, its time to get the word straight from the horses mouth, as the saying goes. Interview your doctor to make sure the doctors philosophy and what youre looking for go hand in hand, Rafey says.
Make sure the doctors reasoning, opinions and treatment plans coincide with what you want.
Come prepared to the meeting with a list of questions concerning issues important to you, Rafey says, such as How long does it take to get an appointment? or Am I always going to see you, or do you have coverage doctors?
Hanson agrees. I also think it is a great idea to simply meet the physician on a short pre-visit before settling, she said. Always bring copies of previous records, especially if you have ongoing medical problems.
You wont be alone in this. Women today are much more proactive with their healthcare, Hanson says. They demand your time and answers to their questions. They do not just want to be told what to do, but also why and all the alternatives. My patients come prepared.
The better prepared you are, of course, the more likely youll get an accurate idea of how well the doctor fits you.
The other purpose of the interviewing process is to get a feel for the physician.
You want to find someone youre comfortable with, Rafey says. Youre looking to create a relationship youre trusting your health to that person.
Sometimes certain people and personalities dont click, he adds. Trust your gut: its hard to trust your wellbeing with a person you find annoying or pompous. The goal? Find someone with whom you can have the type of relationship Hanson enjoys with her patients.
Most women develop a professional relationship with their OB/GYN physician that lasts a lifetime, Hanson says. I have so many patients that I have grown old with delivering their babies, watching them grow, sharing grief and triumphs, and now sharing the trials of menopause and age together. They are my friends, part of my life, not just patients.
Do a Checkup
Finally, do your homework. There are many resources available to potential patients wanting to find more information about a physician.
Local hospital referral services, credentialing boards and state licensing boards can provide information on board certification and the Continuing Medical Education (CME) status of physicians, Hanson says. For example, to maintain her Ohio license, Hanson has to complete 100 hours of CME every two years.
Visit the State Medical Board of Ohios Web site, to search a doctors profile and status in order to check on the training, credentials and disciplinary status of medical professionals licensed by the board. You can also download a roster of currently licensed registered physicians, osteopathic physicians and podiatrists containing the license number, name, address, county and specialty.
Other helpful Web sites include www.bestdoctors.com, which is accredited by the Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME®), the agency responsible for certifying physicians continuing medical education, and features a worldwide database of 50,000 top medical specialists in more than 400 subspecialties who are chosen by their peers.
Another site, www.physicianreports.com, allows patients to rate a doctors care, office services and support staff. HeatlthGrades, provides independent ratings and profiles of hospitals, nursing homes and physicians to the public.
However you go about finding the doctor for you, Hanson says women need to find a physician whom they can relate to, feel comfortable with, and share or work jointly with to achieve the best of care.