We’ve been without a general practitioner for the last year. In 2016 our insurance changed and neither of our GP’s take the new insurance. I’ve looked off and on (and so has my husband) for a new GP but we’ve had no luck finding one that is a) taking our insurance and b)taking new patients. That doesn’t even account for the idea of finding a GP that we actually like.
Without a GP we’ve both been left resorting to walk-in clinics (which our insurance treats like an emergency room visit!), or (in my case) getting one of my various specialists to help me out by refilling scripts that my GP normally takes care of.
We’d really hoped that this year our insurance might change again giving us our old GPs back or giving us new options, but no luck there, so we’ll be looking yet again. So, it was timely that I stumbled across an older episode of The No Mistake Zone podcast with Leslie Michelson (you know, the author of one of my favorite books – The Patient Playbook) on Finding the One. No, he wasn’t talking about finding your soul mate, just the right doctor for you.
Doctor-patient communication is difficult in the best of circumstances, but it becomes even more difficult when there’s no established level of trust. This last year visiting walk-in clinics I’ve experienced a variety of attitudes from doctors. I’ve had doctors who talked with me and attempted to establish trust and I’ve had doctors who stood across the room with their arms crossed with a confrontational air that seemed to indicate I shouldn’t be there.
A 2012 study by Banerjee & Sanyal found that only about 61% of patients trust their physician. Females have significantly less trust in their physicians than males. Urban residents have higher trust with their physician than rural and people tend to trust their doctor more when they share the same native language. It was also noted that women tend to be less able or willing to reveal their thoughts and feelings to the doctor than men are. The researchers felt this may be a factor in the lack of trust established. Of course, it could go the other way – we may be less likely to reveal because we trust less. I know I tend to be more willing to talk openly with a doctor that I trust; otherwise, I only provide info that I feel is relevant.
Step 1: Make a Wishlist – what do you want in a doctor? Are you looking for a doctor with a specific gender? Are you looking for a younger doctor? An older doctor? A doctor that takes your insurance? A doctor with a specific approach to treatment? Of all the things on your wishlist what are the non-negotiables?
Step 2: Ask for referrals – ask your friends and even better ask your other doctors for referrals. Ask your doctors who they use! For some reason the idea of asking my doctor who they use seems like a step out of bounds but why not ask?
Cross-reference the referrals you receive against your insurance’s list of doctors who accept that insurance. Also, check those doctors against the medical board list for complaints and lawsuits.
Step 3: Make a consultation appointment – Once you’ve narrowed your list down to the top two or three make an appointment to meet them. This should just be a consultation appointment, make it clear that you just want a few minutes of their time when it’s convenient for them and that you are not looking for treatment or a physical at this visit. It’s just to meet them and find out if you are a good match.
I remember when I first read that last tip I had so much trouble believing that doctors would actually do this. However, after following steps 1 and 2, I called around to doctors and narrowed a list of 13 down to 3 that were taking new patients with my insurance. Of those three, 2 were happy to meet with me either at a non-busy time of their day or after hours.
At this point I’d be happy to find a GP that is taking new clients and takes my insurance, but if one of these two doctors turns out to be a good fit for me then it’s a win all the way around. Have you ever tried Step 3? How did it go for you? What tips do you have on finding a great doctor?
Banerjee, A., & Sanyal, D. (2012). Dynamics of doctor-patient relationship: A cross-sectional study on concordance, trust, and patient enablement. Journal of Family and Community Medicine, 19(1), 12.