Finding the Right Doctor for Difficult Diagnosis

Dr. Richard Besser offers advice on making tough decisions when faced with a difficult diagnosis.
3:00 | 08/21/12

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Transcript for Finding the Right Doctor for Difficult Diagnosis
This could be a really -- it is very important. It could be the most important choice you make. When you learn that you have a serious illness. I know this firsthand. You know that I do. Finding the right doctor to help you navigate the maze of information, and at times fear, you face when you get a difficult diagnosis. Abc's drchard besser takes a look at how you make those tough decisions. Reporter: She had a great vacation. But 52-year-old julie wolf thought maybe she picked up a bug. Three hours before I landed, I started feeling really sick. And started feeling achy. I thought I was coming down with the flu. Reporter: It didn't get better. And medical tests ended with a terrifying diagnosis. Leukemia or cancer was the furthest thing from my mind. You're kind of thrown in there and hope that it all works out. Reporter: Pitched into an alternate world of chemo and t-cells. It's hard to find a way. Hi, julie. Reporter: But we were there when julie met a different kind of medical professional. Her personal medical navigator. They can listen to them. Or coordinate appointments. Reporter: City of hope offers them to all cancer tients. Knowing I have others taking care of me is the biggest blessing. Reporter: There's nearly 12 million people diagnosed with cancer every year, all looking for support. What do people who have gotten the diagnosis do? 80% look online about a disease or treatment. But beware, medical information on the internet can be unreliable. Sometimes as harmful as it is helpful. But the internet can lead patients to better doctors. This doctor remembers after the gulf was ravaged by hurricane katrina, he saw endless patients in need of specialists. We don't want to have this problem again, where patients could not find the doctors. Reporter: Out of frustration, he created doctorselite.Com. We want to empower these patients to reach doctors across the country. Dr. Richard besser and dr. Jennifer ashton join us now. I'm so happy we're discussing this. I feel I am blessed that I've been able to have this man right here help me through the maze of making these decisions. And we want to share and let people know how they can do it, too, rich. Give us suggestions right off the bat. One of the things that helped our relationship was, we knew each other really well before you were sick. And I think that's really important for everybody. You want to find a doctor who you know, who you're comfortable with, when you're healthy. G.P., An internist. If you get sick, if something goes wrong, you can turn to them and they know you and can help steer you through this incredible maze to find doctors. How do you find that one doctor? That's hard. It can take some work. First, you want to look at your health plan and see who's covered. Then, you want to get a personal referral. Talk to friends, and family. Then, you may have to kiss a few frogs before you find one that works. When I moved up here, the first doctor I went to, we did not click. The second doctor I went to, i think she's wonderful and it's a perfect fit. It's a relationship. You say, is ask your doctor who their doctor is. Rich gave an example of where it didn't work so well. Ask your doctor who he or she goes to. Find the doctor's doctor. We have a little inside information. We have the inside scoop on what makes a good doctor. Ask your doctor, who do you go to? Who do you take your kids to? And you can't be concerned with hurting anybody's feelings. Nothing against that doctor. It's your doctor. You can fire your doctor. As a pediatrician, there's parents that will set up appointments to interview me. Internist, family doctor, much less likely to do that. You may have to go through a few. You say as patients, we have the power. We need to ask questions. And we need to ask for our test results. These belong to you. Sometimes it doesn't seem that way. But don't accept normal as an answer. If a doctor calls you or says that your tests were normal. Say thank you, that's wonderful. Can you go through it with a little more detail. I would like a hard copy of the results. Keep that at home. It's your medal history. And ask questions. Like a procedure. Do you need -- I've been asking this a lot. Do I need to have this procedure? This is what rich and I were talking about before. In medical school and training, doctors go through a way of thinking that actually patients can learn how to think like a doctor. You want to say, what is the risk of the procedure? What is the risk of not doing the procedure? What's the benefit of the procedure? What's the benefit of not doing the procedure? That's four questions. And lastly, you should say, and what are my options? Those five questions will put you in a much better position, a more powerful, a safer position. All of this information is invaluable. I don't have to tell you two. There's some people sitting at home. They're saying, hey, this is all great. But you know what? I don't have health insurance. And I have an illness. What do I do? And what do you say to those people? There's 50 million americans who don't have insurance. Eight out of ten of them are working. They don't have a job with insurance. There's a few things to do. There's medicare, who provides support for people who don't make enough money for health care. But each is different in that regard. And many states don't cover those conditions. There's certain programs, if you have breast cancer, there's programs that provide support. The bottom line is, if you don't have health insurance, you have to try not to get sick. Good luck with that. Also, nonprofits and company benefits. Talk to your doctor. At the end of the day, doctors, we want to take care of patients. Don't assume because you're not covered, you can't be seen. All right. This is very important to a lot of us. And thank you for helping us navigate this maze. We'll talk about it more.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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