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The Struggle of Finding a Great Doctor If You Don't Know Where to Look

If only there were a magical formula to find the right doctor for every patient! Much like slogging through the dating scene to find love, cutting through all the bad doctors to get to the good one is a struggle.

Looking back, there had been signs of Crohn’s disease in my life since I was a kid, but it wasn’t until I was finishing up my sophomore year of college that I knew something was really wrong. I was diagnosed in fall of my junior year and when I was told by my childhood pediatrician that I needed to find a gastroenterologist (GI), I simply called the first guy that showed up on Google. What a mistake.

In my defense, I was not feeling well and my metal shape was weakened by my condition. I was tired all the time and just not as cognitively sharp as I had been, so I didn’t put in the effort to find a good doctor, look up reviews online or take the time to call around and compare different GIs.

I paid dearly for my laziness and his ineptness. I got very sick, very quickly. When I came home for Christmas it was clear to my family that my doctor’s methods were not working, as I had lost 30 pounds in three months and was sleeping upwards of 16 hours a day. I was in no shape to do my homework on a new GI, but I lucked into the best care I could have asked for.

My new GI was thorough, caring, thorough and thorough. Where my previous GI had fallen short, she came through in every way. At this point, my intestine was 90 percent blocked, I had an abscess the size of a fruit and I had developed a fistula, so my only option to heal was surgery.

Losing control of my health to that extreme was a wake-up call, and since then I’ve taken a much more proactive stance on my health. It’s easy to believe that doctors are all good people with good intentions who care about their patients’ health. While I believe that’s true for the most part, I’ve learned the hard way that the only person who is going to make sure I’m getting the attention I need is me.

But ugh! That is so freakin’ hard to do! I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have a degree in broadcast journalism, which didn’t require me to take many classes on autoimmune disease (I believe the grand total of science classes I took in college is none). It’s hard to advocate or defend myself when I don’t know the ins and outs of what I’m advocating for or defending against. The good news is that I am fully prepared to stand in front of a camera and report on it after the fact.

So I lucked into finding a great GI, and when I graduated college I moved 30 miles away, a still doable if not desirable distance to cross for appointments. But the thing is, my body isn’t composed entirely of intestines (thank God) so I need doctors other than GIs to help take care of me. In my ideal world, I have a team of doctors who communicate amongst each other to ensure that I am healthy. Autoimmune disease is a b**** in that if I’ve got one, I’m probably going to get a few more. So that means finding doctors I trust in every facet of my health: primary care, GI, OB/GYN, dentist, rheumatologist, therapist, etc. But where do I even begin in making sure I’m getting the best health care when I’m not a health professional? In my amateur experience, there are two places to begin: word of mouth and the internet.

When I moved up to Los Angeles, I talked to some friends about their doctors and how they feel about them. This is a great way to get started. It opened my eyes to the different medical groups, practices and hospitals in my new home. The trick is finding doctors that are in my insurance network. Big thanks to the Affordable Care Act and a job with health benefits for keeping me insured.

Insurance companies make it very easy for me to find doctors that are in-network online. I can even enter a radius in which to search for doctors so I don’t have to drive too far. Since I moved up to LA this has been the primary way I begin my research for new doctors. It helps narrow down the field to my specific insurance, and from there I go to good old Google for reviews on each doctor. Nowadays Yelp is good for more than just assigning stars to the Thai takeout around the corner. Many doctors and practices appear there, and I find it’s a good way to gauge other people’s experience, while taking them with a grain of salt. There are other medically centered websites that focus on reviewing doctors, but I’ve found that fewer people take the time to rate on those sites.

From there, just jump in. It’s impossible to know what chemistry exists until you and your doctor meet in person. Of course, hopefully there’s not too much of a spark since you’re looking for a healthcare professional, but hey! If there’s more there, good on you for landing a doctor. If I’ve learned anything from “Grey’s Anatomy” they’re probably very smart, good-looking and prone to drama.

It’s taken me almost four years to reach a point where I am satisfied overall with my healthcare. I have definitely stuck with some doctors too long (I’m looking at you, old dentist!), but at the end of the day, after all the research and Yelp reviews, you just have to try the doctor out for yourself. Sometimes the care I received seemed good enough at the time, and it wasn’t until I went to someone new that I realized what I was missing out on. As my mom said, “Now that you’re happy with your doctors, it’s time to move and find new ones.”

P.S. I don’t suggest looking for doctors from your balcony. It will be a very slow route to finding the health care you need.

Follow this journey on Cool With Crohn’s.

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