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I’m excited to announce that US News and World Report has invited me and some other social-media savvy physicians to participate in a live Twitter chat about how to find a good doctor. The chat will be held on Thursday, March 20th at 2pm EST. You can join the conversation by following the #DoctorFinder hashtag or take the pre-chat poll here.
Most people, including physicians, rely on personal references to find a good doctor. But what do you do when you’re far from home, or you don’t know anyone with firsthand knowledge of local doctors? My parents recently asked me to recommend a physician for them in a state where I knew none of my colleagues personally. This is the 10-step process that I used to help them navigate their way to an excellent specialist – I hope it helps others you find the right doctor as well!
1. Determine what kind of doctor you need. You’d be surprised how many different specialists treat the same symptom – depending on its underlying cause. Take “back pain” for example – should you see a primary care physician, an orthopedist, a neurosurgeon, an anesthesiologist, a rheumatologist, or a rehab specialist to evaluate your symptoms? That depends on the cause of the pain, which might not yet be evident to you. The first step to finding a good physician is to figure out which type is best suited to your potential diagnosis. Bouncing from specialist to specialist can be costly, so if you’re not sure which kind of physician specializes in treating your disease or condition (or if you haven’t been diagnosed yet), start with a primary care physician first.
If you’d like to ask an online physician about your symptoms (or find out which specialist would be the most appropriate for you or your loved one), eDocAmerica.com is my favorite online physician consultant service (note that I answer questions for them.)
2. Compile a list of all the doctors (of the specialty you need) in your area. This list can be generated by your insurance carrier or by an online search of doctor-finder databases such as Healthgrades.com, Vitals.com, or US News & World Report’s Doctor Finder directory.
3. Narrow online choices by your preferences (available via Healthgrades.com or Vitals.com databases.) Check out the doctors’:
Years in practice
Types of insurance accepted
Review CV if available (often on affiliated hospital website)
Check out patient reviews (take them with a grain of salt in case they are skewed by an unfairly disgruntled patient)
Make sure they’re accepting new patients
4. Do an online “background check” of your top choices.
5. Make an appointment – consider the following qualities in a good physician experience:
- The team: courteousness of scheduling staff, professionalism of nurses, PA’s, techs, etc.
- Facilities – cleanliness, comfort
- Medical records/communication – how will they provide you your data? EMR? Email?
6. Come prepared
- Bring your list of medications
- Bring a list of your medical and surgical history/conditions
- Bring a list of your allergies
- Bring contact information for your other physicians/providers
- Bring your insurance information
7. Ask the right questions
- How many procedures (like the one I’ll need) have you performed previously?
- What are the risks/benefits of the procedure? Alternatives?
- What should I read to learn more about this?
- If unsure of diagnosis: What else could this be?
- Are there other medicines that are less expensive that we could substitute?
8. Go with your gut
- Did the doctor explain everything clearly?
- Did the doctor seem to care about you?
- Do you trust your doctor to be thorough with follow up?
- Do you like your doctor?
9. Get a second opinion
- If the doctor did not meet your expectations in any significant way, find another one
- If you want to be sure that you’re on the best path, get a second opinion from one of his/her peers or do it online: eDocAmerica (for generalist questions), Best Doctors (to be matched with top national specialists)
10. Reward good doctors with good online recommendations so others can benefit. Physician ratings are only as reliable as the reviewers. Help other patients locate good doctors by promoting those who deserve it.
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I have been an outspoken, and often times exasperated, patient advocate and student of healthcare reform. There is no doubt that the U.S. healthcare system is operating far below its potential in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, and affordability. In fact, an entire industry of policy wonks and consultants have sprung up in both the public and private sectors – all with recommendations about how to “fix” our system. In my opinion, the most insightful suggestions will come from those who are currently doing the work of healthcare (i.e. clinicians) and change will be adopted and promoted most fervently by the young and freshly minted among them.
Medical students, residents, and physicians newly in practice now have a place to voice their opinions – The American Resident Project is an ambitious movement to promote fresh thinking from tomorrow’s physician-leaders. I am pleased to be supporting this effort here on my blog and in face-to-face meetings with fellows at medical centers across the country. I hope you’ll bookmark the website and join in the community conversation about how to innovate in the midst of a broken system. This is more than a think-tank for change – the ideas and opinions of young doctors may be our best hope for a brighter tomorrow.
Stay tuned for some fresh ideas in the setting of some healthy talk therapy!
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Does my butt look fast in these pants?
Since I started running (in earnest) a couple of years ago, I’ve been doing what I can to stay motivated. Running is a great sport because 1) it’s cheap 2) you can do it anywhere 3) it’s hard. So, because of #3 I welcome all opportunities to make running fun – and wearing amusing shirts during races seems like as good a strategy as any.
The idea for the “Does my butt look fast in these pants?” shirt came from a sign I saw at a recent marathon. A guy was cheering on the ladies with a homemade sign that read: “Your butt looks fast in those pants!” I laughed so hard it took me a quarter mile to recover. So I shamelessly stole his idea and made a Better Health women’s running shirt out of it. If you think it’s cool and want one too – I’d be happy to print you one. The larger the batch we order, the less expensive it will be.
So if you’re looking for a funny Christmas gift… or if you just want to thwart the race competition by making it impossible for them to pass you without sputtering out a laugh, let me know. Email me if you’d like to order a shirt and we’ll discuss details. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org (They are made of Nike dry-fit fabric, come in the colors shown only, and are available in Ladies S, M, L – if guys show interest I suppose we could order a run of men’s shirts too?). Let’s prepare to GET BETTER HEALTH this season… and run our way to victory in the battle of the bulge.
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Tina Thompson, Mario Lopez, Dr. Val Jones
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) are about to kick off their annual Fit Family Challenge. The goal is to support families as they commit to a lifestyle of healthy diet, regular exercise, and strong moral qualities. It’s called the “Triple Play” approach – a game plan for body, mind, and soul. I’m honored to be their “mind” coach again this year, and will help to shepherd 250 BGCA families from across the country. Five finalists will be chosen to compete in Los Angeles for the title of fittest family near the end of 2012. We have timed the competition to coincide with New Year’s Resolution planning, and hope that these fit families will inspire others to turn over a new leaf in 2013.
As part of my support for the competition, I’ll be publishing several blog posts (at Better Health and the Fit Family Challenge Blog) with evidence-based healthy eating tips for the families – and for anyone who wants to follow along with the Triple Play Fit Family Challenge. I can’t wait to see how lives will change – and how together we can tip the scales against obesity, disease, and unhealthy relationships. Please join the Boys & Girls Clubs in this important initiative.
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Rock superstars Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of “The Who” have a new cause: sparking a franchise of teen-oriented cancer treatment centers across America. To kick off the launch of Teen Cancer America, Daltrey & Townshend were featured at a conference held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. I was fortunate to be invited to sit at the head table next to teen cancer survivor Sarah Sterner – a bright and confident young woman from Atlanta who was cured of brain cancer two years ago.
Sarah told the crowd what it was like to be a fifteen-year-old in a pediatric oncology unit populated by ukulele-playing clowns and screaming infants. The extreme age-related disconnect between her pscho-social needs and that of younger kids and babies served to make her feel even more isolated during her course of treatment. She longed for the companionship of others like her, but without any national cancer centers focused on the special needs of teens, she was on her own.
Roger Daltrey became interested in teen cancer when his personal physician took up the cause in the U.K. and turned to him for support. Daltrey’s decades of playing music to teen audiences made him keenly aware of their unique psycho-social needs. “When you’re a teenager, it’s horrifying if you have a spot on your nose. Imagine what it’s like if you have cancer!” said Daltrey.
Teen Cancer America began as a movement called the Teen Cancer Trust in the U.K. According to Daltrey, preliminary research (comparing teens treated in a typical NHS cancer ward versus a unit sponsored by the Teen Cancer Trust) suggests that there may be as much as a 15% survival advantage in being treated in the special units. Daltrey attributes this to increased morale that helps teens and families find the will to fight through life-threatening treatments.
When asked how American cancer centers compare to those in the U.K. Daltrey immediately responded that he believed the U.S. centers were far superior. He described the incredible resources available at UCLA and Duke, and how the facilities themselves were unbelievably beautiful, sporting plant-filled atria, massive skylights, and high tech imaging and radiation equipment. Nonetheless, he noted, “Teens don’t want to hang out in an atrium. There is just no place that appeals to teenagers at these centers.”
Whether specialized teen cancer treatment environments in the U.S. will dramatically improve survival rates remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that recognizing the unique psycho-social needs of teenagers would be a boon for patients and families at pediatric cancer centers. Like post-traumatic stress disorder in military personnel, the psychological ravages of cancer may well be under recognized, especially in the teen and young adult populations.
Thank you Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend for bringing this to our attention.
Find out how to support Teen Cancer America here.
Check out The Who themed cookie from the press club event (delicious!):