Friday, May 6, 2011

When Choosing a Doctor; Choose Wisely

Often when you are diagnosed with a serious or chronic disease or condition, you simply fall into the lap of whomever your primary care doctor refers you to. In the case of an accident or an emergency, you are at the mercy of whoever is on call when you arrive at the ER. Once the crisis has passed, if you require continual care, treatment or monitoring, then it is in your own best interest to seek out a medical professional that you can trust and relate to. 

You need to find someone that will answer your questions and be available when needed. You are essentially “hiring” a medical professional and trusting him or her with your life. Do not settle for the professional that keeps you waiting in the waiting room for hours and then literally breezes into the exam room, spends 90 seconds with you, hands you a prescription and a large bill,  and then blows out the door, leaving you feeling confused and irritated with questions still floating around in your head.  They are working for you; you are paying them well for their medical advice. If you do not feel comfortable and do not believe that you are receiving the care and attention you deserve, fire them and find someone who will listen to your ailments, fears and concerns and treat you as an equal. It is your body and your life that you are entrusting them with, do your due diligence when selecting your medical professional.

Seven years ago I had ovarian tumors. I was very, very fortunate to be a patient of Dr. Mark Genesen, a gynecological oncologist. He was not only a very gifted surgeon and doctor; he was also an incredible human being. He saved my life and preserved my spirit. When I left California to move to Idaho to be near my son and his family, Dr. Genesen assured me that I would be in good hands with his colleague, in Idaho. I tentatively made an appointment with my “new” doctor. It was a disaster. I cried through the entire exam. I cried when the nurse took my blood pressure and I cried when they asked me questions. They kept asking me if I was in pain. That made me laugh! I am certain that they thought that I was a real whack job and that Dr. Genesen was glad to get rid of me, but the truth of the matter was that once you have found the best and established a relationship with them, then anything less than that is difficult to accept.

From that point on, I traveled every three months, back to Palm Springs to see Dr. Genesen. Eventually he decided to move his family to Tulsa, Oklahoma. I considered following him there, and many of his patients do commute, but I thought that I would give his replacement a chance. Dr. Han became my new doctor and I was pleased to find that he could fill Dr. Genesen’s shoes. The lesson learned here is that there ARE medical professionals out there that you can relate to and trust; you just have to find them.

I am currently on that mission now. I have an appointment at City of Hope next week. It was a referral from my current doctor. One of the greatest ways to get insider info on a doctor is to speak with nurses. Sometimes they can be hard to track down, but ask your friends and family and you will be amazed at how quickly you are able to find the info that you are looking for. You may also choose to schedule an interview before making a decision.

Things that I will be considering when I meet my new doctor are:

1.     Does the doctor take a thorough medical history?
2.     Does he/she ask questions regarding my history?
3.     Does he/she allow me to ask questions?
4.     Does he/she answer my questions thoroughly without getting annoyed?
5.     Does he/she take their time and not make me feel rushed?
6.     Does he/she do a thorough exam?
7.     Does he/she wash their hands before touching me? OK, I have become a germ-a-phob!
8.     Is their medical staff competent and friendly?
9.     Do they promptly inform you of your medical labs and tests?
10.  Is their office and exam room clean?
11.  How long does it take to get an appointment?
12.  Can they see you when an emergency arises?
13.  Which hospital are they affiliated with?
14.  Where is their office located?
15.  Do they take your insurance and bill them for you?
16.  Do they have any malpractice suits against them?
17.  Do you genuinely  LIKE them as a person?
18.  Can you relate to them?
19.  Can you understand them; both their language and their accent?
20.  Do you feel that your best interests are being served?
21.  Do they treat other patients with your same illness?
22.  Do you trust them?
23. What is their Emergency Management Plan; in case my condition changes rapidly?

You might also do a quick google search for credentials and malpractice suits. Most important of all, make sure that you are comfortable and happy with your choice; if you are not, make a change. I know many people that are unhappy with their doctors' and when I suggest that they look for a new one, they almost always avoid discussing it. It seems as though many people feel a strange sense of loyalty to their physician and cannot entertain the thought of leaving them. 

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