7 Characteristics of a Great Doctor and Tips on How to Find One
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.
I've 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 or 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 routine preventive screenings we're 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?
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 doesn't have his hand on the doorknob while he's talking with you, signaling that he has more important things to do and that he's 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.
3. They don't rush to prescribe you medication. A good doctor will ask about your lifestyle habits—diet, exercise, sleep—to help determine if changes in these factors may reduce or eliminate your need of medication.
In addition, before prescribing new medication, he'll be aware of any other medications you're currently taking to make sure they're safe to take in conjunction with each other.
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 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's usually a bad sign.
If he becomes defensive when you ask questions, especially if they're 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.
I have turned to Mayo Clinic's website for medical advice for years, and now I turn to their book of home remedies for practical and natural cures for a variety of conditions.
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's 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're 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?
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're 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.
Your membership will normally transfer (at no cost) if you move to a new city or state, although you may have to update your address in order to find medical providers in your new location.
Also, once you're 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.
- Are all Doctors Board Certified? | Angies List
Patients should understand the difference between a medical license and board certification. Learn how to find out what your doctor's credentials are.
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're not required to be board certified. A board-certified doctor has received training beyond what is required for a license, and his training is specific to an area of specialty such as pediatrics, cardiology, or neurology.
Make sure you understand what the the acronym (such as MD, DDS, or PA) behind a medical provider’s name stands for, and do your research to ensure that the provider actually has the education and training the acronym behind his name represents.
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's a very good indication that you have found a great doctor.
© 2015 Geri McClymont