As the world gets more complex and more and more information accumulates in a given subject, the tendency for many is to just find an “expert” and go to him/her for information and advice. In the old days this process of finding an expert was difficult. It often involved a library visit, multiple phone calls, and perhaps personal interviews.
Digital Access to Physician Information
In today’s world, the information you need is usually a click away–the internet. However, this easy access to information can be a double edged sword for the unwary. Just like in any other field, this is true in the field of medicine, as this discussion will point out. And unfortunately, although getting into and through medical school requires intelligence and hard work, once a person is out of school the rest of his/her career is monitored, for the most part, by the physician him/herself.
Post medical school training teaches the physician more advanced care and is carefully monitored. However, once finished there are relatively few monitors placed on the physician’s behavior. Sometimes their behavior is driven by a goal other than quality patient care.
Finding the Right Doctor for Your Needs
So, as a person who recognizes that they have a potential problem, how do you, the patient, go about finding the right physician. One who puts the patient first is knowledgeable about the problem you have, and who’s main goal is not just to put money in his pocket. In my experience, there is a tendency for patients to either rely on their family physician or to go on the internet and quickly seek the answers they need.
I think this is a reasonable plan, but not a complete plan. Remember, it’s your life and your body—and you only get one. A complete plan transfers the responsibility back to you. You should do everything in your power to make sure you get into the right hands.
Tips from a Physician on How to Find a Doctor
I am going to give you an insider’s view on what I would do if I were looking for a physician to take care of a medical problem.
Step 1: First, go on the internet and become familiar with the subject. This is an essential first step. You are not trying to become the expert, but you are trying to become more knowledgeable, so you can ask the right questions.
Step 2: Find physicians who are Board Certified in the field you are concerned with. Again, you have to be careful, for there are physicians out there practicing in fields where they have no business practicing, yet their ads say they are Board Certified. Your question should be, “Board certified in WHAT?!!”
For example, the field I currently work in is vein care. Indeed there is a Board Certification for this field, it is called Phlebology. I am also Board Certified in General Surgery and Thoracic Surgery and had a Vascular Fellowship before there was any Board Certification in Vascular Surgery.
Of all of this training, the one Certification that makes me the real expert in vein care is the one in Phlebology, not the training in general surgery, vascular surgery, or heart surgery. In fact, I have been dealing with the heart and blood vessels for over 30 years and I can truthfully say that as far as credentials go, the thing that makes me an expert in vein care is my Board Certification in Phlebology. So, if you have a vein problem and need an “expert”, go to the American Board of Phlebology website and see if there is anybody who is Board Certified in this field in your area.
Similarly, would you let any doctor operate on your heart? Of course not! You would want a Board Certified heart surgeon. You can go to the American Board of Thoracic Surgery [these are the heart surgeons] and get information to find out who is a Board Certified heart surgeon in your area. The same is true for all Board Certified specialties in medicine.
The good thing with heart surgery is that most hospitals will NOT allow a surgeon to operate on a person’s heart unless that surgeon has the proper credentials. The problem with fields like Phlebology [Vein Care] is that almost all procedures now days can be done in an office operating room, without involving a hospital. So anyone with a doctor’s degree and a bit of advertising can become a “vein expert”. These physicians have no one monitoring them and insurance companies don’t seem to care whether they are reimbursing truly knowledgeable physicians or not.
Step 3: Check to see whether the physician you have in mind has a website. It there is one, go to it and spend some time. Get a sense of who you are potentially dealing with. Write down questions that you have that aren’t answered on the site.
Step 4: Seek help from your family physician. You can now ask good questions about your problem. You can get a sense of how much your family doctor knows or cares about the subject. He/she may have some recommendations and you can take them under consideration.
Step 5: Visit with friends and family who have had similar problems and see if they have any recommendations.
Step 6: With the information from your family doctor and from word of mouth you may want to re-visit the net and repeat steps #1-#3.
Step 7: Set up an appointment with your #1 choice. Take advantage of any free evaluation offers if there is a question about whether or not you need to see a doctor for your condition [Generally free evaluations are conducted by a nurse or physician’s assistant].
Step 8: Visit more than one qualified specialist if you are unhappy or unsure with your first choice of physicians.
At some point, after these steps, you will have to make a choice and go with it. Unfortunately, nothing in medicine is a 100% sure thing; but at least you will have done all that you can to put yourself in position to get the best treatment possible.
Dr. Robert Ruess has over 30 years experience as a vein care specialist. Call Five Star Vein Institute to schedule your free consultation to discuss your vein care needs.