How To Choose The Right Family Doctor

Selecting a good family doctor is one of the best things you can do for the health of your family. He or she is a partner focused on keeping you and your family healthy for life. This is the person who knows your personal health history and schedules routine screening tests that frequently help prevent and detect serious illnesses like heart attack, cancer and diabetes.

Your family doctor will encourage you to make healthy lifestyle changes, and is the doctor the other doctors will call for information if you’re ever hospitalised for a serious medical condition. Keeping the same doctor for at least two to five years allows enough time to build a strong relationship. When doctors know patients well, diagnosis can be more efficient and accurate. Since the role of the family doctor in the wellness of your family is so important, it is crucial that you look for the right kind of doctor. Here’s what you should ask yourself while deciding on a doctor for your family:

  • Do you want a doctor who is close to home or work? More and more doctors are available only during fixed time like early/late mornings and early/late evenings. Are they available on weekends? You need to consider where you are during these times. At work? At home? This will help you find a doctor who is the most convenient for you.
  • Are you more comfortable with a male or a female doctor? Discussing health issues and treatments can be a very personal experience. It’s important that you are comfortable talking to your doctor about any medical situation that may come up. Deciding whether you prefer a male or female doctor can ensure that you are as comfortable as possible.
  • Know enough about your doctor: How long have they been practicing? Are they affiliated with a hospital? If yes, which one? Who covers for them when they are not available? Do they have time to adequately address your concerns? Do they return phone calls?
  • Your impression of the doctor’s clinic: When in his/her clinic, evaluate environmental factors. Take into account the attitude of the people who answer the phone and greet you when you walk in – are they efficient and friendly? Are the phones answered in a timely manner? How far in advance do you need to schedule an appointment? And how long is the wait to see the doctor after you arrive for your appointment?
  • Speak the same language: It is important for you and your doctor to be able to communicate without any language barriers. Choosing a doctor who speaks your language will help you reach your concerns effectively.
  • Is your doctor communicative enough? Of course, merely knowing the same language is not enough. Your doctor’s job is to help you take care of yourself by giving you the information you need to make decisions about your health. You depend on your doctor to help you understand why you feel the way you do and what your symptoms mean. Your doctor’s role is not only to explain things in terms you can understand, but also to give you a correct diagnosis and the appropriate treatment. Is this criteria fulfilled in your association? Or do you have someone who silently scribbles out medicines without saying much, thinking you won’t get it anyway?

Consider compatibility: The personality and relationship is very important when choosing a doctor; this, as much as the delivery of care or the patient’s health outcome. Use your first visit as a test in compatibility. Some factors to consider: Does the doctor listen to you without interrupting? Do they fully answer your questions? Do they explain your diagnosis and treatment, and specify a date for a follow-up visit?

  • The doctor’s attitude towards you: What kind of a person do they come across as? Are they surly, indifferent or, even worse, arrogant? Do they respect your boundaries as patients? Or do they seem dismissive and impatient in their attitude, allow their cultural prejudices to colour their judgement when you are vulnerable? Even the best of practitioners cannot be acceptable if they have a bad attitude. As a patient, you need to realise that you do have a choice and have to be respected. This is a professional relationship, which is a two-way street.
  • How tech-savvy is your doctor? You might want to be able to access your doctor’s office online sometimes. Many doctors now use email, watsapp, or an online portal to communicate with patients, which may be another item of importance to tech-savvy communicators when selecting a family doctor. Does your doctor keep electronic health records to track your medical history, share info with specialists when needed, track doctor appointments, get lab results, request prescription refills, and e-mail questions?

The doctor’s attitude towards medical representatives: Many doctors let representatives from pharmaceutical companies into their offices to pitch their drugs even while the patients wait outside. That not only takes up a lot of time but also may inappropriately influence your doctor’s choice of drugs. This means that the patients can get started on a brand-name medication that may be more expensive or may not be the best one for them. The doctor’s attitude toward drug company representatives can indicate how committed he is to practicing according to the best interest of the patients alone.

If the doctor doesn’t meet your expectations, feel free to shop around. That’s important not only to save you time and money but also for the health of your family. Growing research suggests that people who have a strong relationship with their family doctor not only report greater satisfaction with their care but may also enjoy better health.

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