I just got a letter from my doctor saying that her practice is moving. I can either go to her new location, choose a PCP from the same practice, or find someone entirely new. I already moved with her once, and it’s a bit of a drive already. Her new office will be even farther from my house, so I think I’m going shopping.
But I hate looking for a PCP. I feel so lost. Doctor shopping is so time consuming, and awkward. Often, I schedule several first visits, just to test the waters and see who’s out there. Like online dating, it’s hard to get a good read on someone after only 1 visit. You can only get so much information ahead of time, and then it’s up to the two of you to establish a report, ask and answer one another’s questions, and try to ascertain if there is a “next time.” And with managed care, a comparison to speed dating is also appropriate.
I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
I always ask my family, friends, and coworkers if they are happy with their doctor. I go online and look at the list of doctors covered by my insurance plan, and then I start researching online. Most doctors have reviews and educational credentials posted somewhere online. I will discount one or two bad reviews, since we’re all human and we all have different ideas of appropriate bedside manner. I look for patterns in the reviews, seeing which aspects (positive or negative) are most repeated.
Everyone has their own list of qualities they look for (in a date or a doctor).
10 Qualities I’m Looking for in a PCP:
1. Good listener – She can repeat and summarize what I say, and distill my concerns and implied questions.
2. Knowledgeable – She is familiar with current research and protocols.
3. Thorough – Her exams are complete, unhurried, and specialized for my chief complaint. She follows up on all complaints, and all possible causes.
4. Communicative – She explains what she will do, what she is doing as she does it, and summarizes her findings all in language I understand. She asks if I have any questions, and then fully answers them. She follows up on your phone messages and lab results promptly.
5. Committed to complete care – She gives referrals when necessary, and understands the importance of mental health, physical therapy, and nutrition.
6. Serious – She initiates the tough conversations about weight, bad habits (smoking, drinking, etc.). She asks about sexual activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug use at every visit. She knows how to lead these conversations without belittling or deferring to the patient. She follows up on every abnormal finding, no matter how small. She does not discount the patient’s inherent sense “something’s just wrong.”
7. Good bedside manner – She can hold a pleasant conversation and get the patient to open up about his or her life (often revealing). She makes the patient comfortable throughout the visit.
8. Advocate – She is an active advocate for the patient’s best interests. She argues with insurance companies, specialists, hospitals, or even the patient’s family when necessary. She gets firm with the patient when she sees self-destructive behavior, and she enthusiastically encourages positive changes.
9. Good staff – She runs a tight ship in the office. Appointments aren’t always 15 minutes late, they last a good amount of time, and you don’t have to wait 3 months to get in. The staff gives reminder phone calls for each appointment and annually to make sure you schedule a physical.
10. Strong background – She comes highly recommended by her patients, she graduated from a good residency program, and has experience in her specialty. She is active in organizations and/or research.
What would you put on your list?
Do you have any strategies for finding a good doctor?