In the same way we seek a friend before we need a friend, we should also seek out health care professionals and form a bond, before we need treatment. When we become ill, we quite naturally feel worried – and possibly helpless and fearful as well. These are not the ideal circumstances in which to initiate a partnership with a health care professional. Such a relationship should be entered into when we can think calmly, and are capable of making intelligent decisions. In short, we must form the partnership when we are completely well.
As health activated individuals, we have a responsibility to deal with our physicians and dentists so that we are satisfied with the care we receive. The process of evaluating our health care begins when we select the health care professional, and continues as we work with him or her over a period of time.
Evaluating a Physician:
Once you have the names of two or three qualified physicians, it is a good idea to set up an appointment – before you get sick – to talk about establishing a partnership. That will give you a chance to assess the doctor and the doctor’s office and to obtain some basic information. You may have to pay for this visit, but it will be worth it in the long run. Some questions you may want to ask, if the answers are not immediately apparent are:
Is this physician license to practice?
Is he or she board certified?
Where will I be hospitalized, if it becomes necessary? (The physician should have admitting privileges at a good hospital nearby.)
How available is this physician in the middle of the night, for instance?
Is there a “call hour” when I can phone to ask non-urgent questions? Does this physician have an efficient answering service?
What are the physician’s fees? (Fees of physicians practicing in the same specialty in the same community are generally comparable. However, a physician who is “board certified” may charge a little more than one who is not. Also, a physician further certified in a sub-specialty may charge even more.)
If at the end of this preliminary visit you are not sure that this physician is for you, simply explain that several were highly recommended and you plan on talking to all before making a decision; then move on to the next on your list. If you cannot find one with whom you feel personally at ease, choose on the basis of professional qualifications.
After You Have Received Care From The Physician:
If you are not satisfied with his or her performance, you should consider finding another doctor. The following tips can help you evaluate the care your doctor has provided.
A good physician emphasizes preventive medicine. He or she should ask about your lifestyle – diet, exercise, drinking and smoking habits, occupational risks, sleep routine, etc. – and make suitable suggestions for improvements.
A good physician takes a careful medical history from you and listens carefully to your complaints. He or she explains any proposed treatments to you in non-technical language, and is willing to answer your questions.
A good physician takes enough time to do a thorough examination. You should not feel you are being rushed in and out of the office.
A good physician refers you to qualified, reputable specialists in your area of need, should the need arise.
A good physician does not often keep you waiting beyond your appointment time. I say often because we are human and unforeseen events can at times interfere with our regular schedules.
A good physician keeps records on you, making notes of every office visit. He or she should always ask you about possible drug allergies; if you have any, this fact should appear prominently on your health records.
A good physician reminds you when you need a checkup. He or she may give you a personal phone call or send you a reminder in the mail.
When giving a prescription, a good physician takes time out to give you thorough directions as to how to take it. Be wary of a physician who gives every patient a prescription, prescribes antibiotics for the ordinary colds, or routinely makes diagnoses via the telephone.
If surgery seems necessary, a good physician welcomes second and at times third opinions. You should always get, at the very least, a second opinion before any surgery. You should also get it from a physician who is not a colleague or associate of the physician recommending surgery.
Our health is our responsibility! We owe it to ourselves to get the best medical, dental, and any other care necessary to keep us functional and in tip top shape, mentally, physically, and spiritually.