What to Look for in a Good Doctor
Everyone is a patient and healer in some respect. Your body is constantly breaking down and repairing itself whether you realize it or not. If you have ever been to a doctor, whether for yourself or for a loved one, you know there are as many types of doctors as there are patients. Each doctor has a unique personality (rapport), skill set (specialty), and environment (solo practice, tertiary care center, etc.) within which he or she works. Each of these facets can have pros and cons for your particular situation.
What you or your loved one may need as opposed to what you are looking for can be two different things. For example, you may want someone who listens to you, while your significant other wants a doctor who will tell him or her what to do. Your preferences are critically important for defining what a “good” doctor is to you—whether a primary care doctor or a specialist.
Qualities of a Good Doctor
After logistics and technical questions (such as insurance coverage, hospital privileges, medical board certifications, primary care versus specialist needs) have been considered, ask yourself what are some of the most important qualities you want in your doctor. Here are some qualities to consider:
- Someone who sees you as part of the team and as a whole person. You are the only one living in your body; your opinions and insights are valuable. You must be your own best health advocate, but so too must your doctor be your champion. A doctor who is focused on prevention, being proactive, and keeping you healthy, rather than waiting for a problem to diagnose and treat, is someone you want on your team!
- Someone who allows time to truly listen and appreciate your concerns. This may come in the form of extensive patient intake forms and questionnaires, or time spent during the consultation/exam, during follow-up visits, and outside the visit (for example, there may be the ability to communicate through email via a patient portal). This doctor creates and cultivates an atmosphere of sincere caring. You want to feel comfortable being completely vulnerable and honest with your doctor. And you want to trust that your doctor has your best interests in mind.
- Someone who has excellent medical knowledge but demonstrates humility by listening and acknowledging their patients’ wisdom. Good doctors know when they do not know something and are curious to learn more.
- Someone with excellent communication skills. You leave your appointment feeling empowered with new knowledge, understanding, and a plan.
- Someone who is highly regarded and respected by their colleagues and patients. Word-of-mouth referrals from patients of good doctors, backed up by other physicians (ask your primary care doctor or a doctor you know in the community for their opinion of this doctor), are a strong sign of an all-around good doctor.
- A good doctor is professional. They have a clean and orderly office and respects your time and starts appointments on time. Good doctors walk the talk—leading healthy lives with integrity.
- Someone who—besides opening his or her ears and heart to you—lays hands and eyes on you. Physical touch and a thorough exam is critical to the healing process. Does the doctor specifically look, touch, and listen to the area(s) of concern? Do they explain what they are doing? If you are seeing a primary care doctor for the first time, they should:
- Look in your eyes and mouth.
- Feel your neck and abdomen.
- Listen to your heart, lungs, and abdomen.
- Check your reflexes by tapping on your knees and arms.
- Look at your skin.
They also may do a breast, prostate, or pelvic exam at the visit or plan such exams for a future visit.
As with any partnership, your relationship with your doctor is a personal journey. Finding the “right” good doctor for you can be the beginning of one of the most important relationships of your life.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center’s Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
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