How to choose your Doctor!

I write this article to help the reader choose the correct doctor for himself. I see a lot of patients in my daily practice and have had the chance to see how they connect with different doctors, how they struggle with their chosen doctor. I write with an intention to put things clearly for my own patients as well as those who are keen to know more about how to select a good doctor for themselves. In India, patients have a pretty unique problem in that there are no standards for doctors. You may find doctors of very varied abilities, treatment philosophies and standards in the very same institution. For example, you could find doctors following the American/European/British and Indian guidelines to treat the same disease in the same hospital. I hope that this article will help the patient understand and choose the best doctor for himself.

How people choose their doctors normally!

Usually patients are brought to a particular doctor by an “interested third party” (referred). It may be a close friend, family member, relative, neighbour or even just a well intention-ed do-gooder! Sometimes people search online or just walk into the hospital, ask around and walk into the Doctor’s Out-patients’. Some, would have met a doctor on a social occasion and would then decide to go to him when the need arose.

People also look for doctors only when they are unwell. Some would go to the local/neighbourhood GP (easily reachable, easy on the wallet and with walk-in appointments) and then start searching for higher levels of expertise only when they don’t respond to the treatment given.

For many people, finding a good doctor is by chance/Luck!

Different Strokes for different folks!

Patients come in with different mindsets. Some of the different approaches are as follows

1. Some patients have Blind Trust – Such people accept without question all recommendations and “submit” to the Doctor’s care and give them a free hand to investigate and do the needful.

2.Some patients need convincing – Some come with an attitude of listening to what the doctor has to say. They may not accept all the recommendations made, they may ask for explanations and then accept them only if convinced.

3.Some will do as they please – Some patients come to the doctor for a diagnosis but then would go on to not taking the recommendations given or designing their own treatment. I have a patient who come to me for a diagnosis and then take homeopathic medicines on her own (including homeopathic vitamins!)

4.Some are doubting Toms – Some patients would google around, question the doctor (the inquisition!) and get second opinions for the same problem and then do as they please. they may or may not accept any of the recommendations made. Their belief in Dr.Google is much higher than any doctor that they can meet face to face!

5.Some are pessimistic – and would doubt if anything would work at all.

Doctors are not all the same:

1. Some have a patriarchal attitude – would like to play God, not tolerate any questions and would demand a free hand to deal with the medical problem as they wish.

2. Some will be very patient and hear you out fully.

3. Some doctors will be willing to give you limited time only. For example, I set out to give my new patients 20 mins and 10-15 mins for the old (review) ones in my Out Patients. Of course sometimes it would take longer.

4. Some doctors will be willing to explain in detail and involve you in the management planning and some may not. Some will not share information such as the blood reports (especially if you are the attendant) and some will share all details with you.

5. Some doctors are “commercial“. (requesting too many tests)

6. Some doctors rely solely on their clinical judgement. (one man show)

7. Some doctors are excellent Team players and have an excellent network of specialist to support their practice.

8. Some doctors work in small clinics, some in small and medium hospitals and some in large Corporate Hospitals and reputed Centres.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to grade these doctors based on where they work. Patients therefore often rely on second hand information to choose their doctors. And this isn’t the right way to do it.

There are different qualities that go to make a good doctor!

1. Theoretical knowledge and keeping yourself up to date.

2. Diagnostic abilities

3. Therapeutics and knowledge of medication and how to use them.

4. Procedural skills (Operative skills especially for the surgeon)

5. People and communication skills.

6. Speciality knowledge (of other specialities)and knowing when to refer.

7. The Team (of Doctors -of quality specialists who support the Doctor’s practice)

8. “AFFABLE, APPROACHABLE, AVAILABLE AND ABLE!”

Doctors working in different setting may have different abilities, perspectives, Intentions and shortcomings!

A m in a small clinic may have limited knowledge, limited contacts and therefore limited ability to help you. The advantage may be of low cost treatment with short waiting times.

A may have a better team (of supporting specialists) to treat you in case of serious illness. The quality of the team could however be variable. The patient may need to travel outside the hospital for specialised tests such as MRI/PET scans etc. The quality of care could depend on the philosophy of the hospital owner and the supporting specialists.

In a Corporate Hospital, the care could be of a very high standard but could also be very expensive or without personal touch. Improved hospitality and facilities (all under one roof) would come at a tremendously increased cost. The Quality of the treating doctor may also vary and personalised care may not always be possible especially if the doctor is too busy. The doctor may have too little time to spend talking to the patient.

So what I recommend to those looking for a Doctor is

1. Begin your search for your Doctor much before you actually need one.

2. Have a doctor who is interested in coaching you on how to stay healthy.

3. Find a doctor who isn’t too busy to give you “enough” time and whom you could approach for every small ailment.

4. Find a Doctor who has a good Team to treat you in case of more advanced disease and who can give you impartial advice based solely on your needs and who can refer you on to the right specialist for you.

I wish you my very best in your search for your perfect doctor!

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