How do you differentiate between a “good” and “bad” doctor? How do you know if the diagnosis presented is accurate or if the options presented are the best ones? How do you know if your doctor or surgeon is suited to your needs?
I’m sure questions such as these go through the mind of every patient faced with a problem that is above average in complexity. It took me 10 years of trial and error to present you this list; some of the lessons have left permanent scars. I hope it helps with your own decision-making process.
1. The right doctor is similar to a good friend.
They listen. You should be comfortable communicating with them. They should never brush off or laugh at any of your concerns, especially if it is affecting your life a great deal. He or she has to take your pain seriously, be it physical or psychological, and treat you with respect. They should never belittle you or make you feel as if it’s all in your mind and that you are just being silly.
2. Always seek a second opinion.
This is probably the most important lesson I have ever learned in relation to selecting a suitable doctor. You’d be surprised at how different their opinions can be, and new insights can be garnered from every single one of them. What one doctor suggests might not be the only treatment option you have. I once had a gynecologist tell me the only treatment option I had was to have my entire cervix removed. Another specialist I visited was appalled by the extremity of this suggestion.
So if you do not trust the opinion of your doctor, or you just want to seek alternative options or a confirmation of your own decisions — get another opinion. It could be worth every penny you’ve got.
3. Listen to your instinct.
This might be obvious to some and takes a bit more work for others who, like me, tend to be have trouble deciding until all pros and cons have been assessed and obsessed over. I am now learning how to listen to and trust that little voice inside me again. More often than not, it already knows the right answers to my own questions.
Believe in your judgment. If that little voice is telling you your doctor doesn’t care or isn’t interested, it is probably right, and you want to stay away from them.
Why does this matter? Because you want to be treated as an individual and not just a job number waiting to be struck off the list. If you are being treated like the latter, there is a possibility your case will not be given the consideration it requires, and that might increase the chance of a mistake happening.
4. Communication and collaboration.
Chronic illness patients often have to keep up with an assortment of doctors from different departments, covering them from brain to bone. When you visit a specialist, they tend to look for and treat specific issues related to their field only, but everything in your body is connected, and one thing can leads to another.
I’ve found the best doctors I have and still have are those who are willing to communicate or collaborate with each other. For example, my rheumatologist takes the time and initiative to communicate with my heart rhythm specialist, and together they discuss the best course of treatment to take in relation to both issues.
One of the best healthcare experiences I have ever had was at the Cleveland Clinic — I was impressed by how aware everyone was, from the counter staff to the doctors and surgeons, on why you were there and what for. Their specialists get together to discuss the best solution to a patient’s problem. With a dozen brilliant minds put together, this can only be beneficial. I remember thinking to myself, So this is what good management is like.
Should you be interested in reading more about their system, this book written by Toby Cosgrove, their president and CEO, has some great insight. Keyword: collaboration.
5. Mentor more than boss.
And finally, at the end of the day, it’s your life and you can choose to live it however you wish. As with everything else, all you have to do is deal with the consequences of your choices. I believe a good doctor should be more like a mentor and less like a boss. He or she should never tell you how to live your life but should be there to warn you of potential pitfalls and guide you toward the right health path. They will never be in your shoes — you have to walk in them by yourself.
In closing, here is one of my favorite health quotes in relation to this topic:
“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Follow this journey on A Chronic Voice.
Editor’s note: This is based on one person’s experiences and should not be taken as medical advice. Consult a doctor or medical professional for any questions or concerns you have.
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