This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.
YOUR PRIMARY CARE DOCTOR IS JUST ONE SOURCE OF OTHER PHYSICIAN REFERRALS
Have you bought a new refrigerator lately? If so, a national study suggests you spent more time researching that purchase than selecting your medical doctor (MD). That doesn’t sound right to me. After all, your refrigerator just keeps your food fresh; your physician helps keep you alive.
This finding raises some important questions. How can you get a good physician referral? Does everyone need a primary care doctor?
In honor of National Doctors’ Day, (March 30th), I’d like to review the features that may help you find an MD.
Start with questions. If all of the physicians on a list are equally qualified, what are the features that would matter to you beyond their credentials and experience? Only you can decide if the age or gender of your doctor provides some added measure of competence. Other questions you may want to consider are: Do you want a doctor who has electronic medical records and accepts emails from patients? Are you looking for a physician who will tell you what to do or let you be a partner in your own care? How close are the offices and in what hospitals do they have admitting privileges? How easy is it to get an appointment?
Ask around. Friends and family who have a doctor they like will be able to tell you about their doctor’s personality and how well their office is run based on personal experience. That’s valuable information you won’t find on a resume.
Pick the right primary. If you are in good health and just need a doctor for routine exams and treatments, a family-practice physician or general internist can meet your needs. But if you have a chronic medical condition that must be managed, such as diabetes, you may be better served by a specialist, such as an endocrinologist, with a diversified staff to meet your primary care needs. Similarly, women going through menopause may want a gynecologist as their primary-care giver, and those over 65 may prefer a geriatrician who can deal with multiple age-related issues.
Add some specialists. Once you have a trusted primary care doctor, that is the first person you should turn to when you need a physician referral to other specialists or surgeons. You may then ask friends and family about the specialists they use, and why, to see if any of the same names show up.
Check credentials. No matter how favorable a recommendation may be for a particular specialist, it is important to check whether they are certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties. There are 24 medical specialties and you want a practitioner who has completed an approved residency program and passed the written exam for their specialty. You should also verify that all your physicians have current licenses in the state in which the practice. This is available from the American Medical Association.
Know who’s covered. Depending on the type of health insurance policy you have, you will either be able to use the physicians and specialists of your choice or have to select from the approved providers in your plan. If you see a doctor outside of your plan, there will be extra charges.
Once you find an MD you’re happy with, you may want to show him or her how much appreciate all that they do for you as we celebrate National Doctor’s Day. One if the best ways is follow their instructions and take good care of yourself!