Eventually, everyone needs a doctor to treat or manage some medical problem. When looking for a physician, word-of-mouth is a great place to begin, but it is important for patients take a little extra time and do some research before hiring a doctor.
When you put your trust and care into someone else’s hand, it is important that you feel confident that this person has the expertise, experience, qualifications and skills to give you the care you deserve. So how do you know if you are getting an appropriately trained and knowledgeable specialist who has continued to stay abreast of the rapidly evolving advancements in medicine?
Here is a list of things each patient should consider when looking for your Dr. Right:
- Board Certified: Board Certification is one of the best indicators of competency and training. Board certification through the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) means a doctor has earned a medical degree from a qualified medical school, completed three to seven years of accredited residency training, is licensed by a state medical board, and has passed one or more exams administered by a member of ABMS. To maintain certification, a doctor is expected to participate in continuing education. Multiple studies have demonstrated that ABMS board certified physicians deliver higher quality care and have better patient outcomes.
- Hospital Affiliation: Your choice of doctor can determine which hospital you go to if the need arises. Find out where your doctor has admitting privileges by calling their office or by asking the hospital. Your hospital of choice should offer a full complement of services and have the depth and expertise to treat issues in the event of an emergency or unexpected complication.
- Qualification & Quality Care: When looking for a specialist, volume and quality are important. For example, if you have a knee problem, look for a hospital that does a high volume of joint replacements and has a good track record. Higher volume traditionally equates with higher patient satisfaction and positive outcomes. Ask the specialist how many of these procedures they have performed in the past 12-24 months. Experience matters. Special accreditation, like a center of excellence, is as also a good indicator of expertise.
- Compatibility: More than half of Americans focus on personality and relationship when choosing a physician. Use your first appointment with a new doctor as a litmus test. Does the doctor listen to you without interrupting? Do they understand and respond to your questions? Do they explain diagnosis and treatment in a way that you can understand? Are you comfortable when asking question and disclosing personal information? The best doctors want to be given an opportunity to educate you on your condition and work together with their patients to reach a higher level of personal health.
- Insurance: Lastly, check to make sure your insurance is accepted.
Patient – physician relationships are one of the most important relationships you are going to have and you need to feel completely comfortable. As a consumer, do not be hesitant to ask a physician about their training, knowledge, experience and hospital affiliation. Remember, it is your health on the line.