Each of us has occasions when we need the services of a skilled physician.  Whether we’re going in for routine, preventative care or for diagnostic and surgical procedures there’s a need to find the right doctor who has been trained to treat a broad range of medical needs.  There are also occasions in which more specialized skill sets are required and a referral from your primary care physician can help you land an appointment with a subspecialist who has been trained in a specific field of medicine.  Finding the right physician to meet your total healthcare needs is important and can be done by using the following tips:

1. Find a balanced blend of personality and experience.  Choosing between various the personality traits of a handful of specialists or subspecialists might be tricky.  There just aren’t as many subspecialists and specialists to choose from, but there should be a wide array of primary care physicians to compile a list from.  Finding a doctor who will be a good fit for you means deciding on what personality traits are important to you and then seeing if you can find a candidate who has a lot of experience and who is infused with those aspects.  It’s best to be realistic in your expectations, and realize that you may end up sacrificing some personality traits for a more impressive resume. Finding a physician who treats you with respect, and honors your personal wishes in the course of treatment should be of utmost importance.

2. Find out where he or she went to school.  It’s a good idea to know where your prospective doctor went to medical school and where they completed their residency.  U.S. News has a resource, “Top Medical Schools,” that is available to the public and can provide information regarding the quality of different medical schools and their rankings.  The subject of where a physician went to school and the caliber of education the school provides its students can raise contentious arguments, however.  A student sometimes leaves the country to attend medical school, but is that to say the medical student wouldn’t have been accepted in a U.S. school?  Perhaps no, but it’s a question to ask, and if you’re not willing to question perhaps you should stick with U.S.-trained physicians.

3. Is your prospective doctor online?  When you have narrowed your list of possible doctors down you may want to access a computer and do a little research online.  Some physicians have medical blogs, publish medical journals, and are easily accessible via email.  The communication venues that a doctor utilizes can provide you with some insight, but they should not be deal breakers.  It is possible that the very physician that you are looking for is not online at all.

4. Gender.  It might not be just a personal preference.  U.S. studies reveal the female physicians rank higher in providing preventative care to both men and women than their male counterparts.  The studies also reveal that women prefer routine screenings for colon, breast, and cervical cancer to be performed by a female doctor.

Your quest to find the right physician may not be easy, but should it be?  I dare say it should not.  Putting your life into the hands of a stranger is risky business and should be done with careful consideration, and asking the right questions and taking time to shop around can help you find the right doctor. This process may mean more time, but feeling confident in your physician is a very important aspect of your care. This is not a time to settle for second best and later regret your choice: take your time and find the right physician for you and your healthcare needs.

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Featured photo credit: A stethoscope shaping a heart and a clipboard on a medical uniform, closeup via Shutterstock

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