Is Your Doctor Right For You?

Finding the right doctor

Here are four questions to ask yourself to make sure your primary care doctor is giving you the best care and best experience possible:

1. Does your doctor listen to you, know you, and share important decisions with you?

A good doctor will ask you questions about your view of your health, and health priorities before giving recommendations on important testing or treatments. Theses discussions can be particularly important if you are considering a new drug or surgery. Age, kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease and gender may reduce (or increase) the effectiveness of some treatments, and you should know these factors before making a decision.

2. Is your doctor comfortable discussing all of your medical problems?

A good doctor will address any and all medical problems you raise, and doesn’t constantly refer you to specialists for every symptom.

3. Is your primary care doctor prepared to ‘be the quarterback for’ or ‘orchestrate’ the care from all your other doctors?

All primary care doctors want to coordinate care with your other doctors, but realistically may not have the time or resources to do this effectively. At the very least, does your primary care doctor attempt to know what the other doctors are recommending for you?

4. Do you have a doctor who tries to prevent new problems and not just treat existing ones?

A good primary care doctor will keep a ‘health maintenance’ list on you, or some similar file, that records your needs for screening tests, vaccines, and other preventive medicine items.

You may be surprised to learn that some of your doctor’s actions may not reflect whether your doctor is meeting your needs:

A good doctor may often have a staff member relay his or her response to your phone calls. Doctors have to balance how to spend their time, and may decide that some of their responses can be safely and effectively delivered to you through their staff. This doesn’t mean they haven’t thought or care about you!

A good doctor might sometimes be rushed, and unable to discuss multiple concerns at every visit. A good doctor will always at a minimum identify and address your most urgent needs, acknowledge the others, and make a plan for additional visits.

If you haven’t really thought about these questions, you’re not alone. It’s easier to assume your doctor is meeting your needs than to find another doctor. You might want to consider asking a family member or close friend to help you to answer these questions.