In business school, they taught us that markets work because consumers have accurate information about services. Do you think this is true of the market for doctor shopping? NO WAY. Doctors have loads of reasons why you shouldn’t know everything about them, and some of them are legit. That being said, we have less information about doctors than pretty much any other service provider. Which is weird because doctors are so vitally important to many our lives. After having some surgeries go very badly, I am a true believer in doctor shopping. Here is one method to do it:
1. Doctor review websites
My favorite review website is ratemds.com. The site is very quick to load for us impatient folks, and has lots of doctor ratings for certain specialties (including orthopedics!). If you find a review saying “This doctor said like ten total words to me” or “The wait was over an hour and he didn’t apologize”…be wary. My next favorite review site is vitals.com. This site is a bit of a pain to navigate, but has some reviews that ratemds doesn’t have. Next up is Angie’s List. I don’t subscribe to this one, because I don’t like paying for anything. But supposedly the reviews are more accurate there. There are a handful of other sites, but they don’t have as many reviews.
2. Consider the doctor’s credentials
I’m not being elitist here. Medical schools have fairly standardized curricula, and every doctor should theoretically be well-trained. But I would say that, on average, a doctor who graduated from Harvard or Johns Hopkins will be a little more book-smart than one who graduated from a Caribbean medical school. And sometimes, book smarts comes in handy. Even though I just said that, some of the best doctors I’ve had have been unconventional–either going to a DO (Doctor of Osteopathy) program, entering med school really late, etc. More important the medical school might be the residency and fellowship. For example, Mayo Clinic and Hopkins are two of the best residency programs for neurosurgery. Overall though, I would rate the doctor’s credentials as of only minor importance, if any.
3. Word of mouth / Word of internet
This one is tricky. How many people do you know with medical issues like yourself? Personally, I know…zero. So instead of word of mouth, use the word of the internet. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you have a heel spur that has been causing you pain, and your current doctor just isn’t helping. The way you can find doctors to help you could be to visit a special topic website such as heelspurs.com, and use their doctor search specifically for orthopedists and podiatrists. You might just find somebody unique to help you–there are some interesting therapies for this condition, such as sending sound waves through your foot to heal the heel (pun totally not intended).
4. Does the doctor smile?
Certain things are correlated with being a good doctor. One of those things is smiling. Being nice during a visit is sometimes even more important the being the best diagnostician. Please do not use this as your only criteria though. You could end up with a smiling idiot of a doctor. But if the doctor has a picture online (use google images), consider if they look angry or pleasant. Otherwise, ignore this criteria.
5. Have a list of questions ready
This is the most important thing of all. It separates the men doctors from the boy doctors, the women doctors from the girl doctors. I’ve had at least a dozen doctors who, when I pulled out a list of questions, visibly looked exasperated. Oh sorry! I didn’t mean to offend you by asking you for information that might affect my health! I’ve also had doctors who seemed like they would answer my questions until the cows came home. Ask about diagnosis, treatment options, previous patient experiences, side effects, cost, and anything else you and your family/friends can brainstorm. I still suck at doing this because I’m shy, but maybe this article will even inspire me.
So that about covers it. If you are not satisfied with your doctor after a couple visits, doctor shop. Your health is of utmost importance, and you deserve a smart doctor who pays attention. Do you have any tips for those looking for a good doctor? If so, leave them in the comments section below.