Doctor Shopping (In a Good Way)

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?

Ask Around

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.

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Comments

View Comments (13)
  • IamStable
    2 months ago

    I agree absolutely, but my doctor boss disagreed. She yelled at me whenever I laughed (no, I do not ‘bray’). The patients loved me and were extremely unhappy when she fired me after a decade of doing the work of three people. Since that time, her turnover is outrageous, as expected. She is a very good doctor, but a terrible manager.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    2 months ago

    Your comment made me think of something recently. My aunt is trying to find a new PCP and she met with one who she didn’t like. She spent the entire appointment on the computer asking generic run of the mill questions.

    My father asked his PCP about her and the doctor exclaimed “oh, she’s a great doctor!”

    You can be a great doctor and not be a people person!

    Thanks for sharing, @iamstable! ~Monica

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips author
    2 months ago

    I dislike sticks in the mud so much I do mind letting a stick in the mud go so she/he can be stuck in someones else’s mud.

  • JJPool
    2 months ago

    Hi Lawrence,
    Thanks for the good advice. One question: When you call in for that first appointment, what do you say the appointment is for? Lately I’ve been on the hunt for a couple of new doctors and when I call to say that I’d like to meet the doctor before becoming a patient, I’ve been told that’s not possible. I always stressing that I’ll pay whatever they charge for an office visit.

    First, this tells me I probably wouldn’t like this doctor or their office. But is this such an unusual request? Have others had similar experiences?

    Many thanks,
    Jessica

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips author
    2 months ago

    Jessica,

    I am sorry I did not write back immediately. What i do is just call and ask for an appointment. I knwo in most cases I will not get it but that is ok. I am interested in how I am treated. If badly I never make the real appointment. If I am offered one i just act sort of confused. oh my Doctor is supposed to call? Humm I did not process that. 🙂

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    2 months ago

    This was a great article, Rick! I am actually working on one right now about why I like my doctors!

    I hope all is well with you! ~Monica

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips author
    2 months ago

    Thanks Monica !!

  • colourfull500
    2 months ago

    Great Idea.

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator
    2 months ago

    Great article Rick! That sounds like a wonderful method. Our doctors need to know our world, and laughter is always a blessing. I would add a few things: being an RN, I always ask nurses for their opinions. They spend the most time with the doctors and know their personalities. I will not tolerate an arrogant or distant doctor. Also, I usually check their patient ratings on several sites. WE are a team, and we need doctors who will work with us, not just the disease.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips author
    2 months ago

    Oh asking nurses is a great idea. But only the ones that laugh 🙂

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    2 months ago

    So I had a couple of diagnostic tests today and the technicians barely smiled. I mean, I rarely go to the radiology clinic except for very specific tests but it was a sort of uncomfortable experience.

    Thankfully, my doctors and their staff are more amicable!

  • Daniel Malito moderator
    2 months ago

    @lawrphil I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a doctor or a surgeon where I’ve made jokes, like I always do, and they just fall flat. Deaf ears. I remeber once my mom even said “he doesn’t joke honey.” I”m like yeah, I get it. Lol. So that’s a good metric to rate doctors on for sure. 🙂 Surgeons, don’t even get me started. They are like the jet pilots of the medical world – too cool to laugh. Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips author
    2 months ago

    Hey Daniel, I love the look on the surgeons face when I demand Pink Floyd Comfortably Numb before the surgery.

    I know I have a good surgeon when they ask if Bob Marlee’s or Prince’s, Anna Stesia is OK as well.

    Oh sure!!

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