This week, we’re going to talk about how to find a good primary care doctor.
I’ve actually been doing a lot of reading on this, because so many people come up to me who, in my opinion, haven’t been treated right by their primary care doctor.
When you go to a surgeon or specialist, the only thing you’re looking for is whether or not they’re really good at what they do. Are they the best at doing a scope, or a cath, etc.?
The same should be true of finding a great primary care doctor. Everybody needs certain characteristics in a primary care doctor.
There’s four characteristics that you need to look for in a primary care doctor.
The first one is advocacy. This is someone who knows how to get you what you need. They know how to get the tests you need, and the best places to get those tests.
For example, mammograms and colonoscopies. They know when you need these tests done, and how to set them up at the best places to get them done.
They’re your patient advocate.
If you get a bad result, they know how to guide you through the maze of what to do next. This is very important. A doctor that’s going to advocate for you and be on your side, and one you know you can trust.
This means someone who is human. Someone who listens to you and talks with you human to human. You’d be amazed at how many crazy stories I hear about the way doctors sometimes treat their patients. To me, it means they don’t like their job. Physician burnout is a real thing.
There’s an art to medicine. The art side is just as important as the science side. So you need someone who has some personality that you can connect with, and someone who actually listens to you and will work with you. You don’t need someone who is simply going to tell you what to do.
People are different. Some people don’t want to do certain things, and you have to give them pros and cons and accept their decision.
I have a lot of patients who don’t want to take certain types of medications. My job is to educate them, and work with what they’re comfortable with. I’ll find other ways.
Access. Does your doctor have same day appointments open on the schedule? If you need to be seen that day, can you get in? Or, can you at least get on the phone with them and do a telemedicine consult so they can tell you what you need to do?
Maybe you need to go to the ER. Which ER do you need to go to? You need to be able to at least talk with them about something, and you can even do that over the phone.
We’ve done so much telemedicine recently, and people love it. It makes me more and more available.
50% of what we learned in medical school is flat out wrong. And the other 50% is probably out of date.
Do the math and that will tell you that 100% of what we learned is either wrong or out of date.
So, you need to find someone that keeps up to date with things. In general, there is a lag between a new finding in medicine. When something becomes mainstream, that lag is about 12-20 years. It’s just amazing.
So you need to ask your doctor how curious they are about learning. How long have they practiced?
I think experience is important.
Here are some other questions that can help you determine the ability of your doctor:
Are you into prevention?
How much time are you going to spend with me?
What advanced labs do you do? How do you interpret those labs?
What conferences every year do you go to?
What are your interests?
These questions are important, because doctors are either going to help you or hurt you. I see over testing and over treating happening all the time.
A doctor has to have good judgment. The primary care doctor is similar to the quarterback on a healthcare team. We have to know what’s going on. We have to know how to communicate with specialists, and then know how to use them in a way that best helps our patients.
Is your doctor okay with you being average or just below average? In my opinion, they shouldn’t be. The average American is overweight and tired.
You don’t need to accept average, because the average right now on that bell curve is a D minus two or three decades ago.
These are the things I think you need to look for in a primary care doctor.
To be fair, most of the time it’s not even your doctor’s fault. There’s so much red tape and bureaucracy that a primary care doctor has to navigate through.
A lot of times, out of necessity, the patient is secondary because they have to find a code or try and get a prior approval done.
This is why I threw out insurance 15 years ago.
Guess what happened? I became a much better doctor.
It’s tough to find a good primary care doctor. Most people coming out of medical school don’t want to go into primary care, and you can’t blame them.
It’s low paid compared to most CEO’s and specialists, and it’s harder work.
It’s harder to be a generalist than it is to be a specialist.
So, those are my tips for finding a great primary care doctor. Most importantly though, listen to yourself and trust your instincts.