In Search of the Perfect Physician
by Bethanne Black
How do you find a physician with the best credentials, a good bedside manner, and a warm personality? There are many ways to find a physician, but only a few methods will produce the right chemistry.
Finding a New Physician
Your local hospital or community medical center most likely has a physician referral service. Use it. When you call the service, have your questions about the physician ready. A sample question list may look like this:
Word of mouth is usually a good referral source, as well. Remember though, that your friend's expectations of a physician may not match yours. Meet the physician yourself before making any final decisions.
Interview the Physician
Perhaps the best way to determine if a physician is a good match for you is to book an appointment or consultation to meet them, before addressing your specific health problem(s). Most offices will accommodate your request for an interview and may charge you for a brief office visit, depending on how long the meeting takes. Ask about the office fee policy prior to the interview.
During your interview, be aware of your instincts and first reaction when meeting the physician.
While you are in the waiting room, watch the office staff to see how they interact with other patients and with each other.
Know Your Medical History
During your interview, it is important to know your medical history: It is helpful for each person to get their medical, social, and family history straight. Patients may be required to fill out an extensive questionnaire that covers their medical history, their family history, and relate it to how it affects of their living situation, job, relationships, and other factors on their health. Understanding your family history can make an enormous difference when describing your health problems to a physician.
Keep a Copy of Your Medical Records
Your medical records are a recorded medical history that should be continuously updated and maintained by both you and your physician. If you are switching to a new physician, get two copies of your records, one set for the new physician and one set for your own records. Read them thoroughly. Familiarize yourself with the contents and terminology. Invest in a small medical dictionary to help you understand basic medical terminology and abbreviations.
Make sure that you get a complete copy of your records, including the physician's progress notes. If you have any radiology or other testing procedures performed, such as x-rays or mammograms, it is crucial to get a copy of these reports as well.
Most medical offices have special procedures for releasing medical records. You will probably have to sign a permission form before they release the records to you. Most often, records are transferred electronically between physician offices once consent is granted.
The Office Visit: Your Time
Come to your office visit with a list of your symptoms, the medications you take, any drug allergies, and a general idea of when your symptoms began. If you feel the physician is distracted, try to bring the conversation back to the issue at hand.
You may want to speak to the physician before you disrobe so that you can meet face-to-face in a neutral environment. If your physician will not honor this request, it is probably a good idea to look elsewhere for a physician. Do not ignore your gut instincts.
Managing Your Healthcare: A Three-step Process
While the Internet is not an infallible source of medical information, information culled from the Internet does provide a basis for patient and physician to initiate a dialogue.
Do not Settle
Don't get discouraged. It may take some time to find a physician that will meet your health care needs.
American Cancer Society
Office on Women's Health
Canadian Institute for Health Information
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Choosing a family doctor. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/choosing-a-family-doctor. Updated May 2014. Accessed June 9, 2017.
Getting started: Choosing a doctor you can talk to. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/talking-your-doctor/getting-started-choosing-doctor-you-can-talk. Updated February 23, 2017. Accessed June 9, 2017.
How to find a good doctor. Consumer Reports website. Available at:
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Updated September 2014. Accessed June 9, 2017.
How to choose the right physician—how to tell us if you don't. New York State Department of Health website. Available at: https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/1444/. Updated December 2012. Accessed June 9, 2017.
Last reviewed July 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 6/9/2017
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