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Beacon Senior News

Top 10 signs of a good doctor

Jun 25, 2020 02:21PM ● By Karen Telleen-Lawton

Work with the doctors you deserve

Decades ago, my primary care doctor referred me to a urologist for suspected kidney stones.

After straining my urine and collecting a little vial of stones, I phoned in the results to the urologist’s nurse. In my first meeting with the doctor, I placed the vial on his desk. He leaned back in his chair, hands crossed behind his neck, and mused, “We’ll have to figure out what your pain was because young women like you don’t get kidney stones.”

“Then what are those?” I blurted out. He lurched forward in his seat to examine the stones. Thus began our “rocky” relationship.

At my next kidney stone attack, the nurse reported that the doctor was on the golf course and not answering his pager. I ended up in the emergency room, vomiting on the hallway floor. After that, I changed doctors.

As we age, we tend to spend less time jogging and more time with doctors. Our relationships with various medical professionals become increasingly important. What happens when we don’t see eye to eye with a doctor?

Complaints about doctors are more likely to be about communication than medical care.

A recent study revealed that 75 percent of doctors believe they communicate satisfactorily with their patients. Only 21 percent of those patients agreed.

As medical knowledge about how the body works continues to grow, expectations increase for doctors and nurses. At the same time, medical insurers push medical practices to accept larger patient loads. Health care may be at a breaking point, but when you are at a doctor’s appointment, your own health care is what rightly concerns you.

Do your part

Before you give up on your current team, make sure you are contributing to good communication with your doctors. Be firm but respectful of their professional knowledge. Express your concerns honestly and graciously. If these attempts don’t resolve the issue, consider another doctor in the same practice, which would cause you less disruption in terms of medical records.

In my case, I never again met with that urologist, but that was partly because I’ve never had stones again. Each episode occurred within two months of childbirth, so I stuck with just two kids and skipped further stones.

In these difficult days for health care, you may feel like you have no choice but to keep your team together. In this case, address your concerns in the way most comfortable for you: in person, by phone, by mail or email. Don’t suffer in silence because, frankly, that’s not good for your health either.

Signs of a good doctor

Here’s what you should expect from a good medical practice:

1. You can schedule appointments within a reasonable time frame.

2. The front desk staff is respectful, acknowledging your arrival and making you feel comfortable.

3. Waiting areas and examination rooms are clean and neat.

4. You are not bombarded with pharmaceutical advertising. If there are ads and freebies lying about, sales representatives may be pushing their products. Free lunches and other perks may affect what doctors recommend for you.

5. Your privacy is protected. HIPAA laws are spelled out in all the medical forms you sign. They include rules that medical professionals not discuss patients in public places, leave records where others can see them, or share information with others without your explicit consent.

6. Your doctor listens attentively to your concerns.

7. You can be honest with her or him. You should feel free to ask the whys about your treatment or tell them that you plan to seek a second opinion.

8. Your doctor pauses to check your understanding. According to the Patient Advocate Foundation, almost one-tenth of newly diagnosed patients rarely or never understand their diagnosis. You can avoid being in this group by bringing a notepad and/or a friend to important appointments. If you bring a recording device, you should tell your doctor.

9. Your doctor is moving at a pace you are comfortable with in terms of treatment options. You feel comfortable discussing how long you should stick with a regimen that isn’t resolving the problem. Together, you discuss goals and a timeline for when to change course.

10. Your doctor coordinates with your other doctors. This is especially important for the primary care physician (PCP). Healing requires healing the whole body.

This is a high standard, but most doctors likely aspire to this level of care.