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November 24, 2008

Choosing A Physician You Can Talk To

In the past, the doctor typically took the lead and the patient followed. Today a good relationship with your doctor is described as a partnership where you and the health care team (Doctor, nurses & pharmacists) work together to solve your medical problems. The first step is to find a main doctor (primary care doctor). If you don’t have a primary doctor or are not at ease with the one you currently have it is worth spending time to find a doctor you can trust. People sometimes hesitate to change doctors because they worry about hurting the doctor’s feelings. But it is important to have a doctor with whom you are comfortable with, doctors understand this and know that different people have different needs. The following suggestions can help you find a doctor who can meet your needs:

  • Decide what you are looking for in a doctor, do you care if it is a man or a woman? Do you prefer a doctor who has an individual practice or part of a group so you can see other partners if you doctor is not available?
  • Ask your friends, relatives, medical specialists who they have had good experiences with rather then just asking for a name.
  • If you belong to an HMO you may be required to choose a doctor in the plan you have or you could risk paying extra.
  • There are websites on the internet you can use to help find a physician. American Medical Association has a doctor finder tab that helps find doctors who are a member of the AMA: www.ama-assn.org. WebMD also provides a list of doctors, http://webmd.com. And for a list of doctors who participate in Medicare visit www.medicare.gov, click on “search tools” then “find a doctor”. To find out if a physician has had disciplinary action or complaints filed against them visit the maine.gov website at http://www.docboard.org/me/discipline/dw_actions.html.
  • Once you have narrowed your search call the physician’s office. The office staff is a good source of information, paying attention to interactions with the office staff is important as you will deal a lot with them.
  • Set up an appointment with the physician you are considering, meet and talk with him or her and ask yourself if this is the person you could work well with. You will probably have to pay for this appointment but it could be well worth it. A few questions to consider asking the physician: Do you have many older patients? How do you feel about involving my family in care decisions? Can I or my family call or email you when we have questions? Do you charge for call or email time? What are your thoughts on alternative/complementary treatments?
  • After interviewing the doctor ask yourself: Did the doctor give me a chance to ask questions? Was the doctor really listening to me? Could I understand what the doctor was saying? Was I comfortable asking him/her to say it again?
  • Once you’ve chosen a doctor, make an appointment for a comprehensive examination, be sure to bring any previous health records or have your previous physician’s office send them prior to the appointment. Bring a list of your current medications (don’t forget any vitamins and herbal supplements your taking) or just bring the medications with you.

Debbie Siegel, RN,Wellness Coordinator

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