5 Attributes to Look for in a Family Doctor
posted by Lehi Willowcreek Family Medicine | April 26, 2016
Chances are good that if you don’t know who Dr. Marcus Welby is, your parents do. Marcus Welby, M.D. personified America’s vision of the ideal family doctor back in the early 1970s. Americans were eager to embrace a kindly general practitioner who treated each patient as an individual in an increasingly specialized and technology-driven profession. We loved this benevolent father figure so much, the show’s second season ranked #1 in the 1971 Nielsen ratings. That same year, both Robert Young and James Brolin won Emmys for their work, and the show won Outstanding Dramatic Series.
Decades later, this excerpt from Diagnosing the Good Doctor sums up our current situation:
“The relationship between doctor and patient has changed almost beyond recognition in recent years. Deferential respect for paternalistic wisdom has given way to a much more equal standing between the two parties – though at its best it remains one that is based on respect for knowledge, expertise and experience on the one hand and respect for the humanity of the patient and their wish to know on the other.”
— Chris Smith (Lord Smith of Finsbury), former UK Labour Party politician and minister, and former chairman of the UK Environment Agency
Selecting a new family doctor, whether you have children or not, is a big commitment. that often feels fraught with risk. What if you choose wrong? Would it jeopardize your health? Here are five things to look for when choosing a family medicine provider.
Although we want our doctors to be smart, confident, and familiar with state-of-the-art medical technologies, what we want most of all is for them to be empathetic, authentic, and present with us. Unfortunately, today’s medical providers have more demands on their time than ever before.
A typical primary care doctor has about 15 minutes per patient, reports WebMD. Some hospital doctors have only 11 minutes with a patient. The U.S. medical reimbursement system compensates doctors for performing procedures, not for bonding with patients. This can cause you to feel rushed through your appointment and like just another name on a chart or insurance claim form.
To help determine if a doctor is attentive, ask yourself:
Does he interrupt you? According to WebMD, research shows that when patients begin to talk, doctors cut them off after about 17 seconds.
Is he distracted by electronic devices? Is he taking and receiving phone calls or texts on his phone? Are his eyes glued to the tablet or laptop?
Does his body language indicate disinterest? Is he fidgeting, yawning, doodling, tapping his fingers, or squirming in his seat with feet pointed toward the door?
Martine Ehrenclou, author of “The Take-Charge Patient: How You Can Get the Best Medical Care,” suggests you ask:
“It seems like you’re distracted. Shall I wait to go on until you can listen to me?”
“You seem very busy today. What’s the best way to get in touch when you have a little more time?”
Dr. Leana S. Wen, M.D., author of “When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests,” suggests that patients stop when they feel as if they are not being heard and asked the doctor to share their thoughts. If he is unable to summarize what you’ve told him and offer some possible answers, “you know that they haven’t really listened and you should go back to square one.”
Many of us feel guilty when we “complain” about not feeling well. It takes courage to recount our various aches and pains that have forced us to seek medical help. We fear being told, “it’s all in your head.” But providing your doctor with a full medical history and clear details of your symptoms are the keys to a timely and accurate diagnosis. “Studies show that 80 percent of diagnoses can be made based on history alone, and that not listening can lead to misdiagnosis and fatal consequences.”
Because of the time and financial constraints of our health care system, many doctors are reticent to deal with unclear medical problems. Unfortunately, patient complaints don’t have any diagnosable medical cause that can be determined by laboratory testing in over 50 percent of cases. This makes deep listening skills essential for the accurate identification of symptom-based illnesses like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue.
If you feel like a doctor is running down a “yes or no” checklist that doesn’t apply to your situation, Dr. Leana Wen suggests that you interject, “Excuse me, doctor, I have tried to answer all your questions, but I am still not certain my concerns have been addressed. Can you please help me understand why it is that I have been feeling fatigued and short of breath for the last two weeks?”
Does the doctor register this answer and ask you follow-up questions? If so, you can be sure you’ve found a doctor who will work with you to understand what you are experiencing — physically and emotionally — and partner with you to find the cause and solution.
“I strive to provide my patients with the best quality care at the lowest cost. I welcome the challenge of using clinical acumen to resolve their health concerns and strive to avoid unnecessary procedures and diagnostic tests.”
With less time to listen closely enough to take a patient’s full medical history and document a long list of symptoms to establish a diagnosis, it’s sometimes easier for doctors to order blood tests or X-rays to rule things out. Not only does this drive up health care costs, it can cost a patient precious time and put their life at risk.
“Tests should be done to narrow down diagnoses, or else results are going to be obtained that don’t make sense, and you still won’t know what you have or what to do about it,” advises Dr. Wen.
“As a Revere Health physician, I am proud to be part of an integrated organization that pursues and reinforces excellence. I can easily collaborate with my fellow physicians to deliver the highest quality care for each individual patient.”
When you partner with a physician who is associated with a large health care network, you get instant access to thousands of primary and specialty care providers, multiple convenient satellite locations, and the best hospitals, urgent care centers, and rehabilitation facilities.
This coordination of care and sharing of medical information ensures a safer and more cost-effective health care experience for your family. Everyone on your personal medical team communicates and coordinates to put your health above all else.
“We’ve been collecting data for more than ten years that demonstrates that patients who are engaged in their care consistently get better outcomes.”
— David Wright, chief outcomes officer for GetWellNetwork
You want a family doctor who remembers you, who respects you, and who honors your wishes and preferences when it comes to choosing treatment plans. You also want an honest and forthright doctor who will tell you the truth, even when it’s difficult to hear, and one who provides prompt and accurate information at all times.
An ongoing, supportive dialogue with your doctor inspires you to be more interested and invested in self-care. Patient engagement puts more of the responsibility for good health in your hands, which is empowering. Author Martine Ehrenclou affirms, “Your relationship with your doctor is really the cornerstone of good health care.”
Revere’s Follow My Health allows you to manage multiple aspects of your health care through a secure and intuitive patient portal. You have full access to your health records and can communicate directly with your doctor with just the click of a button.
Revere Health, Utah’s largest independent physician group, chose our name to reflect our unified commitment to patient-centered care. The word “Revere” means to respect deeply, honor, and hold in high regard. If you’re hoping to partner with an organization that is committed to putting your health above all else, we’d love to meet you!
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.