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10 Steps To Finding A Good Doctor And Having A Great Healthcare Experience

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), 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,, or US News & World Report’s Doctor Finder directory.

3. Narrow online choices by your preferences (available via or databases.) Check out the doctors’:

  • Hospital affiliation(s)
  • Office location(s)
  • Educational background
  • Specialty interests
  • Languages spoken
  • Years in practice
  • Gender
  • 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?
    • Timeliness/convenience

    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.

    Should Hospitals Manage Their Physicians’ Online Reputations?

    I spoke to a group of academic physicians recently.  Afterward I was and asked, “Shouldn’t my hospital be responsible for my digital footprint?  I don’t have time to look after that sort of thing.  And wouldn’t it make sense for them to promote my research?”

    4 thoughts:

    1.  Online reputation management of academic physicians should be an individual, not institutional, responsibility. The question reflects a belief that your reputation is the job of “the marketing people.”  No institution will ever be as invested in your future as you are.  While there are hospitals that do a good job supporting their faculty and staff, you can’t assume it to be the case.  No one looks after you like you.

    2.  Dig your well before you’re thirsty. That’s the name of a brilliant pre-digital book written by Harvey Mackey.  He suggested that the time to invest in relationships is before you need them.  Medicine is changing fast and you’ll never know how long you’ll be where you’re at.  Better yet, you never know what opportunities could come your way when people find you.  And if you want to experience the land before time when people used colored pencils, Rolodexes, and rotary phones, read Dig Your Well. Read more »

    *This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

    5 Clinical Resolutions For 2011

    Jenni Prokopy (aka Chronicbabe) put us to the challenge for this week’s Grand Rounds by asking for our 2011 clinical resolutions. I have to admit that I’m not one for resolutions because I can never take them seriously. But admittedly there are things that I need to tighten up. So here goes:

    1.  Clear my chart rack every afternoon. This is key because my creative mind operates better when my charts are done. Of course this means no more tweeting “47 charts” or “33 charts” when I’m behind. Had I made this resolution for 2009, this blog wouldn’t have a name.

    2.  Cultivate innovative communication channels with my referring docs. While I need to be consistent and compulsive with my referral letters, I want to improve mobile, real-time communications between me and my referring docs. For example I’d like to get my local community on Doximity so that I can launch a quick, HIPAA compliant, encrypted SMS messages on my iPhone the second I see a patient. Read more »

    *This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

    Doximity: The Private Facebook For Doctors

    home page.PNGDoximity is an app that launched on the App Store just over a week ago and has the potential to significantly change the way physicians use their smartphones.

    The main focus of the app is physician communication, and for this it incorporates an innovative, secure SMS-like text service. But its real power lies in its deep incorporation of multiple databases of physician and related information.

    In particular, the makers of the app carefully integrated data from the physician NPI and Medicare databases as well as lists of medical schools, hospitals, imaging centers and pharmacies. What they’ve produced is a surprisingly refined version 1 product that can quickly answer the myriad of small, practice-related questions that pop up all day long during a busy schedule. Read more »

    *This blog post was originally published at iMedicalApps*

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