Board certification means that a doctor has had extra training after medical school and internship in an approved training program to become an expert in a field of medicine such as family practice, internal medicine, or gynecology, then has passed a rigorous qualifying examination ("the boards"). Personality is important to me, too, so I ask around to get a feel for what a doctor is like. Nurses are a great resource, since they're the ones who work with doctors day to day and see how they treat patients. I also ask friends, family, coworkers, and colleagues.
Another good source is the website of the American Medical Association (www.ama-assn.org) with its DoctorFinder link. It gives you basic professional information on virtually every licensed physician in the United States. Of course, if you belong to a managed health-care plan, your choices are limited to doctors who are a part of that plan. I also want a doctor who treats me with respect and doesn't sugarcoat things. What you need most is good communication. You end up telling a doctor a lot of intimate details about your life.
If you feel uncomfortable doing so, that's your signal to find another one. Here are ten questions to ask when choosing a new doctor: 1.Are you board certified in your specialty? 2.What type of health insurance do you take? (If applicable, find out if the doctor accepts Medicare.) 3.How frequently do you see patients who have the same health problems as I have? 4.Do you refer patients to other doctors for special problems as needed? 5.Will I need to go to another location for blood tests or are lab tests done in your office? 6.If yours is a group practice, who are the other doctors and what are their specialties? 7.Who sees patients for you if you are out of town or not available? 8.Which hospitals do you use? Will you take care of me in the hospital if I'm admitted? If not, who will? (Make sure you're comfortable being treated at one of these institutions, should the need arise.) 9.How far in advance do I need to make an appointment to see you? 10.If I've got a problem (say a drug reaction or a treatment side effect) can I speak to you or your covering physician within a reasonable time frame? The M.D. or the M.E.?: When to See Your Doctor It's not a good idea to rush off to the doctor for every little ache and pain, but many symptoms are signs that the situation could be serious. If you try to outlast your medical problems, you may be making more trips to a doctor in the long run or, worse yet, a trip to the morgue. Here's what happened when one of my patients passed his symptoms off as little more than the flu.
Excerpt from: HOW NOT TO DIE Surprising Lessons on Living Longer, Safer, and Healthier from America's Favorite Medical Examiner, Dr. G, Jan Garvaglia, M.D.
Copyright © 2008 by Atlas Media Corp. and Jan Garavaglia, M.D.