In the good old days, (can anyone tell me when that was exactly because I have seen Gladiator, Little House on the Prairie and Mad Men and none of it seems all that good to me?) when you needed a doctor for anything from a headache to a broken toe, you went to your local neighborhood doc. He took care of every part of you and every member of your family. If you had an ear infection, he gave you penicillin; if you were losing your mind, he gave you valium; if you were dying, he didn’t tell you, he just gave you pain meds. His office was probably painted green, his stethoscope was probably freezing and nobody questioned him or his diagnosis.
Things have changed. Who do you go to now? Find a primary care doctor.
1. Your insurance company - you can start here or end here but either way, at some point, you have to ask, “Does she take my insurance?” There are about 353,000 primary care physicians in the U.S. One of them takes Aetna.
2. Friends – don’t just ask any friend, ask the friend who shares your taste — not in movies or clothes but in people. A good rule of thumb is whether or not you would sleep with their significant other on a deserted island. If the answer is yes, find out who their doctor is.
3. Your local hospital – if you are fortunate enough to have a good hospital close to your home, call them and ask for the physician referral line. Don’t be shy, tell them exactly what you want. If you feel funny asking for tall, dark and intelligent, go to number 4.
4. The internet – figure out what is important to you; proximity, office hours, sex (of the provider), years trained, where they trained, etc. and try to fill as many of your criteria as possible. It is absolutely o.k. to have a preference. Be wary of the sites that do doctor ranking … they are incredibly subjective and the chances of someone who had a bad experience complaining is much greater than the chances of a patient who loves their doctor taking the time to complete a survey. Do you really trust people who have time to take surveys anyway?
5. Shop around – literally. Don’t continue to go to a physician that you dislike; find someone else. For all the reasons in the entry on 10/4 and for a million others, you should be happy with your doctor. No relationship is perfect and in this climate, the doctor-patient relationship is definitely suffering from external pressures. If you can, try to separate the provider from the office staff, the paperwork and the wait time. Maybe you can’t expect to be ecstatic but you can expect to be treated with respect and treated competently; you can expect to be comfortable voicing your concerns and getting naked in the middle of the day.