Who is the best fit for you?
When it comes time to pick out a doctor, the task can seem overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. Most of the time when we first meet someone, it doesn’t involve having to get unclothed within the first 10-15 minutes while sharing personal, health information. Therefore, it is important to not only look at a doctor’s certifications, but what is their bedside manner like? Do they make you feel comfortable? Is there anything else that you should be concerned about when making the decision as to remain within a doctor’s practice or switch to another?
MD vs DO – which is the way to go?
One of the first things that you should consider is which type of doctor do you want to go to? There are two main distinctions: MD (Doctor of Medicine) or DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). An MD learns how the body functions and how to treat illness by treating specific symptoms. A DO regards the body as an integrated whole and will treat not just the illness but the entire person. For example, if you have a high blood pressure, a DO will look at not only treating it with medicine but how is it impacting your lifestyle and, in turn, how is your lifestyle effecting your blood pressure? In addition to having similar educations in regards to medical knowledge, a DO will have extra education about skeletal system and learn a technique called Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT), which is a hands-on healing method that can treat muscle pain related to diseases (ex. asthma, sinus problems and migraines).
There are several factors to think about when picking a doctor. The first one to consider is primary versus specialist. A primary doctor can usually treat most conditions. A specialist focuses on a particular area and usually works only in that area (ex. cardiologists work with hearts, neurologists work with brains and pediatricians work with children). For the most part, you will generally choose a doctor that is able to manage the majority of your symptoms and they will refer you to a specialist, if needed. Besides which type, the biggest factor is compatibility with you. The more compatible you are, the more comfortable you will feel and be more likely to comply with the doctor’s recommendations. Some key elements to look for are:
1) Does the doctor listen to you without interrupting?
2) Does the doctor fully answer all of the questions you ask?
3) Does the doctor explain your diagnosis/treatment well enough for you to understand?
4) Does the doctor specify when to return for a follow-up visit?
Some other considerations are in relation to the doctor’s practice, like how far is the office from your house? Which hospitals does the doctor use and are you comfortable going there? Where are routine X-rays and lab work done? Some further points to look at include the availability of appointments for a routine exam, how long do you stay in the waiting room, how quickly does someone return your call when you have a question, is the office staff friendly and courteous, and who covers the doctor if they are away? A couple of other details that you might want to consider is the cancellation policy for missing an appointment and does the doctor provide an electronic health record that you have access to? Even with asking all of these questions, you can be limited by your health insurance as to which doctors participate in your health insurance plan. This is important to look at prior to selecting a doctor to ensure that you don’t have any unexpected costs.
In order to make the best choice, there are several ways to learn of compatible doctors. One of the best ways is to ask family or friends who they would or would not recommend. This is especially helpful if they are a doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional who works in the community that you live and they have knowledge of local doctors. Another good source is the AMA Doctor Finder or Healthgrades.com. These allow you to learn more about each doctor and their certifications, hospital affiliations and accepted insurances. Another aspect you should consider is any malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. The best way to determine which doctor is right for you is by scheduling an appointment, meeting with them and deciding if they are the right fit for you.The two key points in selecting a doctor are compatibility and communication. If you have these, you will have a great experience when at the doctor’s office. Choosing the right doctor can be hard, but once you find one it will be well worth the time you invested!