Which do you do more research for — choosing your next car, or choosing your doctor? If you answered car, you aren’t alone. Many people spend very little time shopping around for the right doctor, falling into the trap of believing that all doctors are experts and therefore know best, no matter what. But you wouldn’t be so easy to appease when hiring a lawyer, would you?
Doctors, like all experts, vary significantly, and choosing the right one for you is a hugely important decision. Your doctor might seem like nothing more than a friendly face for your yearly check in — until one day they are not. You are in fact making a choice about who will be your main advocate, advisor, and partner in one of the most important areas of life: your health. It should be a relationship based on mutual trust, respect, and most of all, comfort. That way, if you ever do need to make a difficult decision or face a challenge, you will have peace of mind knowing that you chose the right person to stand by your side and guide you through.
Here are some of the things to think about when you set out to find the right doctor:
It’s All About Fit
You’re looking for the perfect blend of personality and experience, and both are equally important. You will have to work in partnership with this person for years to come, so want to make sure the two of you relate well on a personality level as well as a professional level. Not only will it make the experience more pleasant, but it may help keep you healthier as well. People are more likely to follow recommendations and warnings when they feel well cared for.
A good place to start is by soliciting recommendations from family and friends, but don’t stop there. It is just as important to find out why your friend likes their doctor. They may have different priorities than you.
You Have the Power
It is perfectly within your rights to request an introductory call with a potential doctor before you commit to your first appointment. Most doctors will make the time to talk to you, and if they don’t, that in itself might give you some valuable information. Use this call to get a feel of the doctor’s personality and their philosophy towards their work and the doctor-patient relationship.
Talk to the Staff
The receptionist is the one you’ll have to call each time you want to make an appointment, and a few minutes on the phone with that person can tell you how long you generally have to wait to make an appointment, how long a typical appointment lasts, and whether the doctor typically stays on schedule or if the waiting room is backed up by noon.
There are many online resources that allow patients to leave reviews for specific doctors, and these can be a good place to form an initial impression. Take everything you read with a grain of salt, however, and remember that the doctor has many, many more patients than the ones who bothered to write a review. It is unlikely to be a representative sample and is often unfairly skewed.