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7 Characteristics of a Great Doctor and Tips on How to Find One

Updated on June 29, 2017
gerimcclym profile image

Geri McClymont is passionate about living a healthy lifestyle. She is a certified medical interpreter for Spanish language speakers.

As we get older, we realize it's not easy to find a great doctor.
As we get older, we realize it's not easy to find a great doctor. | Source

As children, we believe that all doctors are great.

As we live longer and grow wiser, we realize that not all doctors are great.

And as we live yet longer and become yet wiser, we discover that it can be challenging to find a great doctor.

Be Prepared

I have heard it said that the best protection against negative doctor office visits is maintaining a healthy lifestyle so as to minimize your need to see a doctor.

Although most would agree that embracing a healthy lifestyle is important, at some point most of us will need to see a doctor, whether we like it or not.

Many people have medical diseases and conditions that require them to see a doctor regularly.

Some employers require their employees to have physical exams as part of the pre-employment screening process.

There are annual preventative health screenings we are advised to have to help detect certain conditions, such as breast cancer and colorectal cancer after we reach a certain age.

Add to this the curve balls life throws at us, such as being involved in an auto accident or being injured while playing sports.

Do yourself a favor and be prepared with the names of a few good doctors.

Do you currently have a doctor you feel comfortable with?

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Characteristics of the Best Doctors

1. They take time to listen to you. A good doctor is genuinely interested in what you have to say so that he knows how to best help you.

He listens to you attentively and respectfully and welcomes your questions.

He is not talking with you with his hand on the doorknob, signaling that he has more important things to do and that he is ending the visit before it even started.

2. They speak patient-friendly language. It matters to a good doctor that you understand what he says.

If he uses highly technical terminology (otherwise known as medical jargon), he follows it up by rephrasing it in words you can understand.

Great doctors will sometimes also use visuals in the form of pictures, photographs or models to better explain different concepts about the body, medical devices, and treatment options.

Good doctors don't rush to prescribe medication to their patients.
Good doctors don't rush to prescribe medication to their patients. | Source

3. They don't rush to prescribe you medication. A good doctor will ask about your lifestyle habits (diet, exercise, sleep) first to see if changes in these factors may reduce or eliminate your need of medication.

In addition, before prescribing new medication, he will be aware of any other medications you are currently taking to make sure they are safe to take in conjunction with one another.

4. They offer you multiple treatment options. When and if necessary, a good doctor will let you know about the various options available for treating your condition, and will inform you of the pros and cons of each treatment option.

He may also supply you with literature about your condition and treatment options and/or provide you with websites to better learn about these.

In addition, he may refer you to support groups to help you cope emotionally and psychologically with your diagnosis.

5. They don't mind when you take notes or ask questions. A good doctor doesn't appear uncomfortable when you take notes or ask questions during your appointment.

If a doctor appears uneasy when you record his responses to your inquiries or when you jot down any information he gives you orally, that is not a good sign.

If he becomes defensive when you ask questions, especially if they are good questions and relevant to the purpose of your visit, consider that a red flag too.

Taking notes and asking questions during your office visit present you as an intelligent and educated patient who is proactive about his health. You should never feel like you have to apologize for this.

6. They will ask you if you have any questions, or any further questions. A good doctor welcomes questions from his patients and will ask you if you have any questions about the nature of your visit before you leave his office.

In doing this, a good doctor is essentially indicating that he wants to know if there is anything else he can do to help you. This shows that he values you as a human being and validates you as a patient.

7. They are hard to book. Once you have a few leads on good doctors, try booking an appointment with each of them. Allow their availability to help guide you.

The best doctors are often the hardest to book because they are in high demand by patients.

Be willing to wait at least several weeks to see a great doctor and once you find one, be sure to book him well in advance for any future office visits.

So how do you go about finding a doctor with these characteristics?

It pays to do your research to find a great doctor.
It pays to do your research to find a great doctor. | Source

How to Find a Great Doctor

1. Talk to trusted family members and friends. Ask them if they have a doctor they see and who they can recommend to you for your particular need or condition.

Then ask them specifically why they recommend this doctor to you.

Their responses will at least give you a better idea as to whether or not what they consider to be positive qualities in a good doctor are consistent with the qualities you are looking for in a doctor.

2. Use consumer review websites. Consumer sites such as Angie’s List allow you to view patient reviews and comments on different medical providers in your area, and to find the highest ranked medical providers in your city.

In some cases, you need to be a member of these sites in order to view this information. There may be a membership fee, but it's usually low and well worth the investment.

In some cases, your membership will transfer (at no cost) if you move to a new city or state.

Also, once you are a member, you too can leave feedback and rate providers based on your experiences with them, which is very helpful to other consumers who are also looking for great doctors.

3. Make sure they have a medical license and board certification. Visit your state government or department of health website to verify that your medical provider has a license (these sites also provide information on disciplinary actions taken against physicians).

While all doctors must obtain a state license to provide medical care, they are not required to be board certified.

Make sure you understand the acronym (MD, DDS, PA, etc.) behind a medical provider’s name which indicates his level of education and/or area of specialty.

Conclusion

Finding a great doctor can be a challenge. Rely on family and friends close to you for good references and do your research online before booking an appointment. Prepare for your appointment by writing down specific information you want to share with your doctor about your health and/or your medical condition, along with questions you want to ask.

When you go in for your appointment, get a feel for your doctor’s bedside manner and interest in you as a patient. If you walk away feeling good about your visit based on the characteristics listed above, that is a very good indication that you have found a great doctor.

© 2015 Geri McClymont

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    • gerimcclym profile image
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      Geri McClymont 19 months ago

      healthylife2: It is unfortunate that sometimes our options of medical providers is limited, depending on our specific circumstances. Yes, so true that sometimes we have to ask in order to get all the information we need. Thank you for your comments.

    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 19 months ago from Connecticut, USA

      That was a very comprehensive article and an accurate one based upon my experience. Sometimes you have to accept some of the characteristics and decide which of those are most important depending upon how serious the medical issue is. Some doctors that are the best medically have a terrible bedside manner and don't like questions and don't present all options unless you ask.

    • gerimcclym profile image
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      Geri McClymont 19 months ago

      Glenn, I agree that a few reviews on one consumer site may not accurately reflect the quality of the doctor. If the reviews for a doctor are consistent across several trusted consumer sites, that information is more reliable because you start to see a pattern. It is also important to look at the specific comments consumers make about the doctor. Some comments are vague while others are detailed and provide more information.

      I think many times people are intimidated by doctors and/or blindly trust them. It is a great mistake. We should not take our health lightly or trust somebody with it lightly. I have been misdiagnosed several times. Thank goodness I had the sense to seek a second opinion each time.

      Thank you for your feedback; your comments make for great topics for future articles.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 19 months ago from Long Island, NY

      I have run into problems lately with the lack of good doctors. It seems they are getting worse. Your suggestion to use consumer review websites is a good one. I have used a couple of these sites to try to find a new ophthalmologist after Obamacare caused me to lose the one I had. But it is important to pay attention to how many reviews have been posted. If there are only one or two then it's not enough information to go by.

      Your list of things to pay attention to is extremely useful. Many people don't think about the red flags that come up, and they keep going to doctors who literally waste their time.

      As you said, it is very important to plan ahead and have a good doctor ready to go to when necessary.

    • gerimcclym profile image
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      Geri McClymont 19 months ago

      Thanks for stopping by, Paula, and for your thoughtful comments. I feel very much the same way about taking time to find professionals for assistance in different areas of my life. Unfortunately, I have often learned the hard way. I've learned that it often takes considerable time and effort to find a good doctor, particularly if you are new in town and can't turn to anybody for a good reference. For this reason, I have found consumer review websites to be extremely helpful, and well worth the time and effort.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 19 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Geri....As with most anything, I am very selective. I take time and effort to find a Dr., Dentist, Vet, lawyer, any person or professional that will be assisting me for any reason. I do not and will not turn my life, health and or major decisions over completely to anyone.

      I am always up front and make it clear that I am consulting them for assistance to be my partner and source of help & information in managing my life. All of these people are mere human beings, not gods, not perfect. I do not blindly follow instructions without knowing exactly the reason and possible outcome.. Any ethical Dr. will not have a problem with an active and concerned patient who wants answers and perhaps alternatives.

      There are numerous points to consider when looking for a "good" Dr or professional of any kind. You have covered this topic well. I think it is a matter of individual needs too. Good article. Peace, Paula

    • gerimcclym profile image
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      Geri McClymont 19 months ago

      Thank you for your comments, word55, and my apologies for the delayed response. You make some good points and I appreciate your feedback.

      Thank you for stopping by, Elsie. It seems that office visits are often very brief even in more urban areas, such as where I live. But living in a rural area, I imagine you don't have as many options in terms of medical providers. I'm glad you have a good doctor who is following up on your cancer, though, and who you feel comfortable talking to, which is so very important in your situation.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 19 months ago from New Zealand

      My doctor isn't a good doctor, half of your points about a good doctor is true about mine.

      These days you are lucky to get a doctor, they are very short of doctors especially in the rural area in NZ) and when you do, your appointment is fifteen minutes, talk about one problem, if there are more you need to make another appointment at $30 a pop you shouldn't need to make another appointment. I have cancer, ACC, the doctor that operated is a good doctor that is still following up on my case, I prefer him, can talk to him, he is by far a more approachable doctor than my own.

      That's life it doesn't pay to grow old.

    • word55 profile image

      Word 21 months ago from Chicago

      Hi G, as much as it is important to have a great doctor, I try to do well enough on my own to stay away from him. I believe more in natural healing including weight loss. God has provided us with the essential foods to maintain proper nutrition naturally, but I'm still agreeable with you, at some point we may need a great doctor. Thank you for such a constructive and significant article.