8 years ago · transitionalw · 0 comments
9 Key Questions to ask when searching for a new Physician
Evaluating a Physician
After my mother moved to Oregon, we found a physician who had been highly recommended for his skill and bedside manner. He was the physician other physicians used for their own families.
Mom and I arrived early for an appointment and quickly were escorted into an exam room. Five minutes had passed when Dr. Sherwood opened the door, holding my mother’s chart. He walked directly over to my mom, holding out his hand, touching her gently on the shoulder.
“Hello, Mrs. Larsson. I’m Dr. Sherwood.” Looking at her directly, he continued, “I apologize for being late. I know your time is just as valuable as mine.”
Mom’s eyes lit up. She felt respected and seen.
So many times physicians bypass the informed and deal with family members directly, forgetting the patient is even in the room. It is a subtle way of showing disrespect to those who have already lost so much control over their own lives.
Even with dementia, my mother had her dignity. Although he answered any questions I had, he educated me even more through the conversation directed toward my mom.
He did a mental agility test each time he saw her, just to track any changes. Even when she was unable to answer a question correctly, he always told her what a great job she had done. It was these little things that made a difference in preserving her dignity.
It’s important to have a primary care physician, or any specialist you may be referred to, that you trust to help you stay healthy. If an illness does occur, you will have confidence in that person to guide you through the healing process or to help you maintain the best quality of life possible if facing life’s end.
We all have different personalities and comfort levels. In the past, many people developed a long-term relationship with their primary care physician (PCP.) Rapport and trust evolved over time. When the doctor said something needed to be done, people trusted his or her opinion without question.
But medicine has changed. As a society, Americans are more transient. About 40 million people move annually in the United States. Nearly three-fourths of the American population move an average of once every five years, making it difficult to form long-term relationships with their physician.
Adding to this difficulty, many practices are now owned by hospital corporations. Making money has become the driving force over building lasting relationships between doctors and patients. Physicians too, have become victims of the system. To financially succeed, they spend less time with patients and more time documenting for insurance reimbursement and protection from lawsuits.
How do we adapt to these changes and build collaborative relationships with our physicians? It begins by us taking an active role. Medicine is a business and we are the consumers. As with any business, products and services vary in quality. We need clarity about the qualities we want in a physician and, through research and referral, to find the best one for our specific needs.
Most insurance companies will not pay for an interview with a physician. Many excellent doctors are full and do not accept new patients. So we need to take an active role to find the best doctor for our particular needs and try him or her out. Even excellent doctors may not be the right personality match for us. But the first visit will lend a lot of information if we ask the right questions.
Think of this first visit as an interview. The office staff should—and usually does—schedule a longer appointment the first visit with a new patient.
Be prepared to use this time to have your questions answered. If you are selecting a physician for yourself, make a list with a close friend or family member before you meet with the doctor. If you are a family caregiver assisting someone else, I recommend sitting down with your loved one and making a list with him or her prior to the appointment.
If needed, record the answers in a notebook during the doctor’s visit. If you can, bring a trusted family member or friend to appointments with you. Two sets of ears are better than one, especially if there is a medical problem. Many times, when a serious illness is discovered, patients shut down and don’t hear much of what the doctor tells them. You can focus on the interaction with your doctor while the person you bring writes down what the doctor says. If you feel uncomfortable about anything, it is best to address it directly with the doctor immediately.
9 Things to Look for When Evaluating a Physician:
1. Shows up on time and seems to be well organized.
2. Focuses on you as a person, including your life, your family, your healthy or unhealthy patterns.
3. Gives you all the time you need to ask questions about your health or illness.
4. Listens well, without interruption, and explains things clearly, making sure you understand completely.
5. Treats you with care, compassion, and respect.
6. Encourages health through patient education, prevention, and early intervention for illness.
7. Educates you about any illness you have and provides options for care, leaving you and your family to make informed decisions for treatment.
8. Directs conversation to you. For seniors with dementia or other debilitating disease, it is important the doctor direct conversations to the patient, rather than to family members accompanying them. This preserves dignity for the patient, including them in their own care to whatever degree they are able to participate.
9. Listens to and answers any questions or concerns family members may have.
Morning Star Holmes M.A. is a Transitional Life Coach, Family Consultant and author of the book, Transitional Wisdom, A Guide to Healthy Aging & Completing Life with Dignity and a companion Transitional Wisdom Action Journal. She works with individuals and their family members experiencing age related decline, life-threatening illness and life transitions. For further information on Finding the Right Healthcare Provider and to sign-up for a complementary pre-assessment of your family’s needs please contact Morning Star Holmes www.transitionalwisdom.com