Doctor Shopping (In a Good Way)
I have a unique but effective way of selecting doctors. It is a three-step process, and it seldom fails. Right now, I have doctors I like and who for the most part like me, I think anyway. I am rather well practiced at this doctor shopping thing since I have a list of 14 doctors I see at least once annually. These are doctors treat me for everything from wax in my ears to RA. So, what is this amazing system?
First, I ask one of my current doctors who they know that has a good reputation. Asking other doctors makes sense because I want my current doctors to communicate with any new one I add to my team. However, I do get some perverse pleasure out of seeing the look on the face of the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor when I ask about a foot and ankle specialist for instance. I love to watch them ponder the question before they give me a name. Oh, and by the way, they always give me a name, it is true no matter their specialty they cross paths with most other specialties at some point and when they do an opinion good or bad is usually formed.
Then I take the second step. I make an appointment. I call in as any patient would, and I arrange a date and time. I judge how the office staff treats me; I call the new doctor even if the referring doctor says they will send a note over to ask for an appointment. My purpose is not to get an appointment when I call; instead, it is to gauge how I feel about the office staff. I do not do well with condescending, overly dismissive or prickly attitude by the office staff. If they are any of those things, I find a new doctor.
Laughing with me
Finally, I take the most critical step. Will the doctor laugh. Laughter is the trait I most look for in any medical relationship. If they cannot laugh with me, they cannot treat me. It is a hard and fast rule. I do not need clown noses and big rubber ears, but I do insist on a sense of humor. I assume the clinical skills are up to par (given the other doctor recommendation), and besides what do I know about heart surgery? Nothing of course. I believe that if my doctor laughs with me, at least I will look forward to my visits.
Also, my doctor and I will never get along if they tell me to do things without asking about my quality of life, and they must acknowledge and value Sheryl’s opinion. Sheryl attends most of my appointments for a reason. Since I insist that I be an equal partner in making the care plan, my doctors must listen to both Sheryl and I, and they must tolerate my idiosyncrasies (like playing the Pink Floyd song “Comfortably Numb” in the operating room while I am being prepped for surgery.
Laughter is the best medicine
Practicing medicine is not all fun and games, I get that. But I dislike it when people take themselves too seriously, and that includes my doctors. When I think about my best doctors they are tough; they do not compromise on some things. For instance, the quality of patient care from other providers (hospital staff) and they insist I follow our mutually arrived at a plan of care. They understand when I say no to a treatment option, and they respect that I have medical issues that are part of my life, not vice versa. My best doctors hold themselves and me accountable for following the treatment plan.
There may be better ways to select a doctor; statistics about patient satisfaction, and treatment outcomes can be important indicators of care. Academic diplomas (naturally I prefer Indiana University School of Medicine educated doctors) and fellowship placements might be valuable indicators of quality. But even if I know all of that, in the end, it is the human touch that makes the difference. For me, the best way to judge the human touch is if they will laugh with me. After all, if laughter is the best medicine, I want someone who practices that as much as the latest treatment protocol.