Selecting Your Doctor

Selecting your doctor requires a bit of research, except in cases of emergency  when 911 is the first call to action. Before you select an insurance plan, if you are uninsured, or even if you have an insurance plan and need a lower level of care, it is wise to perform the following research to potentially enhance your experience with your doctor, optimize treatment, prevent misdiagnosis, and contain costs. Depending upon the type of medical specialty that may be involved in your care, there may be a high number of medical conditions that relate to your symptoms. So, it’s important to take an investigative approach to reduce the risk of misdiagnosis  or an unnecessary “treat and rule out” approach to treatment. The overall risk of a misdiagnosis may be rare for numerous conditions, but the risks may be greater if you do nothing at all.  It is wise to be proactive about selecting a doctor and seeking out treatment when you feel it is necessary.

– Check out the website of the doctor you are interested in and several other physician websites. Doctors’ personal websites and hopsital websites offer some of the best resources to  conduct the following initial research. You may want to compare doctors websites in different geographic areas where other diagnostic testing approaches and treatment options may differ in terms of safety, efficacy,  recovery time, outcome and cost. For a test run, check out our Find a Doctor Directory (top left of this portal), click into a specialty area and identify some of the most important information to look for which is displayed in the doctors listings and on their websites.

– Learn that every  doctor has their own armory of tools to treat people. Every specialist determines proposed diagnostic and treatment plans  based on their level of education and experience. Your doctor should maintain hospital privileges with select hospitals. This means that the physician’s skills for core procedures in their respective specialty have been reviewed by peers.So, ensure that you doctor has hospital privileges and find out which hospitals your doctor has privileges in.

– Compare each  doctors’ focus, such as, specific areas of expertise and procedures, listings of published papers or presented lectures to professional and public audiences, as well as, credentials whether it be graduating with an MD or PhD from a specific school, an FDA Approved Clinical Investigator for Clinical Trials,  and/or holding a prominent position in a medical organization. This includes any research activities that the physician or surgeon may participate which may be found in their online bio and CV.

– Scan information about symptoms, signs, conditions and  treatment options in online peer reviewed physician content, select doctors websites and hospital websites.

– Compare urgent care and hospital websites to identify the facilities’ specific approach to diagnostics and treatment for select  conditions.  It is important  to note that some hospitals are designated for specific conditions, such  as, Trauma I, Trauma II and  Stroke Centers. Some hospitals may have better track records for select conditions when compared to others.

Interested in a Diagnostic Test or  Procedure?

If you’re planning on having a diagnostic test or procedure, you’ll want to know about alternatives to the proposed procedure, recovery requirements, complication risks and coping skills required should there be a complication. Generally, risks are rare when compared to the alternative of doing nothing at all. Still, you’ll want to have reasonable expectations about medical conditions and treatment.

Some of  this information you may find online in peer reviewed physician content. The rest of which you should learn during your doctor’s appointment and when you sign an agreement with your doctor that demonstrates an oral discussion and written agreement about your doctor’s proposed treatment plan.  Your doctor’s goal will be to  help you set reasonable expectations about the outcome of your condition and treatment options.

Just before you leave the office, you’ll want to have the 11 W’s answered in your mind and on paper.

If you are not feeling your best, bring a family member, caregiver or friend for a second set of eyes and ears that may be able to absorb more information that your  doctor provides. It is statistically proven that people may forget critical details about medical procedures they are interested in.

Your Documents

More than likely, you’ll receive a number of documents from your doctor.  To take it a step further, two or more practice visits with documentation may enhance your understanding of surgical treatments to set reasonable expectations for the outcome of your care. You’ll also want a copy of your diagnostic testing results and medical records. You’ll also want to know your Baselines for Health and be able to maintain a Health Planner.