You can return shoes that don’t fit. You can sell a car you don’t like. But if you can’t find a physician you feel comfortable with, the consequences are more serious.
Not liking your doc means there’s a greater chance you’ll put off preventive care visits, avoid getting medical care when you need it or worse, discount the physician’s advice or treatment.
Here, Chicago area doctors share their best advice on finding a medical professional you like:
Make a list about what matters to you before you start looking for a doctor
“What’s important to some patients doesn’t matter to others,” says Dr. Madeline Neems, internal medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group. “Do you care about the age of a doctor? The gender? How long the doctor has been practicing?” Two things that should be on everyone’s list: What insurance the doctor accepts and location. “Make sure your doctor is in your network and practices near where you live, or at least near where you work,” Neems says. “If you have a sinus infection, you’re not going to want to drive 25 miles.”
Make sure the doctor can connect you with other physicians
According to Dr. Judi Gravadal, Morris M. Goldberg, MD chair of Family Medicine for Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, if you have a number of medical problems and need to see many doctors, your primary care doctor should work with them to ensure that you:
- Understand the care plan
- Get support in following recommendations
- Know how to continue your care when the consultant’s work is finished
And pay attention to what’s on the wall
“It’s extremely important to find a physician who is board certified in their specialty,” says Dr. Theodore Mazzone, chair of the Department of Medicine for NorthShore University HealthSystem. “Having board certification is the most direct way to know if the physician has completed an approved formal training program in that specialty, and has passed a test that assures a sufficient fund of knowledge in that specialty.
Schedule a meet and greet
You don’t have to wait until you’re sick to visit a doctor. “When you call, just explain that you’re looking for an initial meeting,” says Neems. “You can ask short questions during this time about the doctor’s philosophy, like ‘Do you ever prescribe antibiotics over the phone?’ ‘How do you feel about alternative medicine?’ This isn’t the time to get your blood pressure checked, but a time to learn more about the doctor and office.”
According to Dr. David Ansell, vice president for clinical affairs and chief medical officer at Rush University Medical Center, you should ask what services the doctor performs in office, such as taking blood or EKGs.
Of course, you can always Google a doctor’s name too. Most doctors have a web page, and at Rush, many physicians have posted video in which they introduce themselves. However, be wary of the doctor reviews on Yelp. “People generally only write negative reviews there,” says Ansell.