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10 Steps to Finding the Right Doctor for You

It seems that I am not the only person who has had trouble finding “good” doctors.

Now, let’s define what I mean by the term “good.” To me, a good doctor is one who meets with you for more than five minutes after you sat in his lobby waiting to speak to him. A good doctor is one who cares enough about your chronic situation that she doesn’t give you a blank stare when you ask a question about your situation… before scrambling through her records to get a quick recap of who you even are. Lastly, a good doctor is one who knows what they are talking about and are able to admit when they don’t know.

I have had more doctors than I care to think about in my lifetime, especially since being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. I have had good doctors, but I have also had my fair share of “bad” doctors. It wasn’t until I met with a therapist for depression that it was pointed out to me that I didn’t have to put up with doctors who didn’t have time for me. In fact, my whole approach was wrong. I needed to start firing bad doctors and only hiring doctors who were willing to work for me.

It seems so simple, but that blew my mind. And, I bet there are some of you reading this that never thought about it like that either.

After all, who is paying the doctor? The patient is – or at least the patient’s insurance company is. You are their customer. Now I am not going to go so far as to say, at least in this case, that the customer is always right. However, I will say that there should be a certain level of customer service that needs to take place if the doctor expects to keep patients coming in the door.

Here is what I did to take control of my doctor situation and to make sure I only have the best and brightest working for me.

1. Find a primary care physician that is just as concerned about your chronic illness as you are.

Don’t let them push you off to a specialist and then never meet with you again in regards to how things are going.

Currently, I see a physicians assistant as my primary care doctor. He is awesome. Every time I have an appointment, he asks how things are going and if I am satisfied with the treatment from my specialist. If I tell him I am not, or I would like to get a second opinion, he does what he can to get me in with someone I am more comfortable with – or he finds someone who can give me a second opinion. He listens to my needs, asks questions and I never feel like he is rushing out the door to meet with his next patient. He is a good doctor.

2. Read the reviews about your doctor before you set up an appointment.

The web is a wonderful resource when used correctly. If you type in your doctor’s name you will find something online about him. If not, you may want to reconsider meeting with him in the first place. However, I have found in my vast experiences there will be review sites that contain your doctor’s information. Read the reviews – but keep in mind that one bad review out of 100 doesn’t mean this doctor is a bad doctor. Remember there are bad patients out there too!

Look for key words and phrases like “good bedside manner,” “makes sure I am doing well,” “prompt with appointments,” “not rushed,” “knowledgeable,” “caring,” etc. Sure, someone might post a negative comment on there, but if the majority of them are positive, then ignore the one.

3. Don’t believe the myth that this is the only doctor you can see.

I have been here before, especially when it comes to a specialist. My insurance refered me to a complete stranger and I felt like that was the only doctor in the world that I was allowed to see. This, however, is just not true. You can always request a second opinion. Tell your primary care doctor that it’s not working out, and if necessary, politely demand another option.

4. Interview your doctor before committing the rest of your life to their practice.

If you were running a business or managing a department inside a large corporation, would you let just anyone walk in off the street and work there? Of course not. If they get hurt, break something or cause you to miss your goal, not only are they going to get fired, but you probably will too. Why do we let doctors just take us on as patients without an interview?

I don’t mean to go through their entire medical history with them and quiz them with dumb questions like, “If you were a car, what kind would you be?” I mean sit down with them when they ask what’s going on and be honest with them. Tell them if you are nervous about being around doctors, or if you have had bad experiences with doctors in the past and see how they react. Let them know your concerns, especially if you have experience with the “rush in and out” kind of doctors. Tell them you are going to have questions and you are looking for a doctor who will take the time to answer them. This is your life you’re dealing with here, so make sure your doctor knows how important it is to you.

5. Never throw another doctor under the bus!

This is very important. Doctors are professionals. They have spent a lot of money and time getting to where they are, and if you walk in telling all of the bad things doctors have ever done to you and begin listing off complaints, it is likely the good doctors won’t want to work with you. If you have worked with bad doctors before, chalk it up to the fact that you didn’t know how to properly screen your health professionals and now you know what kind of doctor you are looking for. Don’t scare off potentially good doctors by making them think you complain when you don’t get the answer you want.

6. Don’t be afraid to fire your doctor.

Be careful here. Before firing your doctor ask yourself if you have given your doctor the information they need to be successful. Have you told them what you are looking for in a doctor? If you have and they are not meeting your expectations, then sure move on and get a new one. However, if you haven’t been so courteous to have at least explained what you need from them, at your next appointment make sure you bring this up first and let them know what you need or want. They might not even know you aren’t happy.

Perhaps you are looking for more time with the actual doctor during your appointment, perhaps is it reviewing the test results in layman’s terms so you actually understand them. Whatever it is, you owe it to your doctor to be a better communicator. If they don’t know what you want, how can they possibly give it to you? They are smart, but they aren’t psychic. If after that they say it cannot be done or are simply unwilling to accommodate, then move on to a doctor who can meet your needs.

7. Stay humble.

Keep in mind that you are not the only patient your doctor sees. Your needs, though important to you, are maybe not the most important or life-threatening needs in the rooms around you. Nobody knows who is in the room next to them and what they are dealing with. You are important and your doctor should be willing to try to meet your needs each and every time, but it won’t always happen. Give your doctor a break from time to time. If you are getting good treatment most of the time and this time is different, don’t write them off, they are probably doing the best they can.

8. Show up to all of your appointments on time!

It is that simple; show up on time! People who are chronically late to doctor’s appointments are usually the biggest reason that doctors don’t have time to meet with you for as long as you would have liked them too. Sure, we can all run into situations that we can’t control, like the fuel truck in front of you just flipped over and there is no way you can be on time. But if we are honest, most of us push life right to the last possible minute, hoping everything goes perfect and that we will make it just in the nick of time. Sorry, but if you don’t know this by now – that isn’t how life works. Arrive at your appointment 10 to 15 minutes early. Imagine if everyone did this how much easier it would be for the doctor to meet with everyone on the schedule.

9. Pay it forward.

If you can’t make it to a doctors appointment, let them know in advance. Not only will you not have to pay a missed appointment fee, you can free up a little time for other patients to have time to meet with the doctor. The doctor won’t be as busy when their schedule opens up a little, and everyone there will have a better day.

Who knows? If you tell enough people about this, maybe they will start doing that too, and the next time you go to the doctor you too will have a better experience.

10. Remember the golden rule.

Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you don’t want to be yelled at by the doctor, then don’t yell at them. If you don’t want the doctor to ignore your situation, then don’t ignore their advice for getting better. If you want your doctor to be on time, then you need to be on time. If you want your doctor to respect you and treat you well, be sure to do the same back to them. Say thank you, write a positive review for them online, refer other patients to them. The list goes on. You are your doctor’s customer, but nobody enjoys working for an obnoxious customer.

By implementing these 10 tips into my own doctor search, I have found myself to be much happier with my current doctor team. I have experienced bad doctors and thought I was stuck with them or that all doctors are the same. Those are both ignorant thoughts and very untrue. Most doctors work long hours, stay up late, and have extremely busy schedules. Be fair with them, and more importantly, when you find a good one, treat them well and be grateful that you have found someone who takes as much concern about your well-being as you do.

Follow this journey on The Autoimmune Life.

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