The other day I called a girlfriend to check-in after her back surgery. My friend admitted to me that she wished she had been better prepared for the surgery. She wished that she had asked more questions, primarily about the recovery period. My friend chose a reputable surgeon who is a part of a major hospital network, but the search stopped there. Had she known this advice before choosing a healthcare provider, she may not have been left feeling in the dark:
1. Shop Around
Don’t settle for the first provider you find. Talk with your friends and coworkers. It’s likely that people in your social network can offer recommendations.
Read online reviews from reliable business sources, such as hospital physician satisfaction surveys. Avoid reviews from commercial sites, like Yelp and RateMDs.com. Nothing against these sites; it’s just that there is no quality data behind the reviews.
Lastly, if you can afford the office visits, get an introductory appointment with your top three picks. Your gut will tell you immediately who you want to form a professional relationship with.
During your search for a healthcare provider, it is important to consider how accessible the physician will be throughout your care. Is there an on-call provider who could handle an after-hours emergency? Or, when your provider is unavailable, is there a covering provider?
When you have questions, it’s helpful to have access to a nurse-line at your physician’s office. Nurses are an easily accessible resource for advice regarding medical symptoms, self-care, etc. Some physician practices may even offer a 24-hr on-call nurse line. Also, if you have a more urgent problem, often, the physician’s nurse can get you an appointment sooner than the receptionist.
Be sure to ask what is the normal wait time for an appointment. Your time and your health are valuable. Is it worth it to you to wait 3 months to see a provider?
Once, during a difficult time for me, an OBGYN offered me his personal cell phone number. While not everyone will do this, it was certainly a nice touch.
3. Bedside Manner
There are highly rated providers out there that are great at their jobs, just they lack in the people skills department. Personally, I think people skills are important.
Because I’ve worked with many patients and providers in my nursing career, I’ve seen the cause and effect of interactions between them. Overall, providers who are personable and outwardly compassionate make more favorable impressions on patients. Patients will more easily trust providers that they are able to connect with.
What is good bedside manner you ask? A provider who has a vested interested in you, who actively listens, involves you in decision making for your care, educates without preaching, speaks at eye level and in terms you can understand.
4. Takes Time
In line with good bedside manner, I’ve found that positive patient-provider connections are more readily formed when providers are unrushed during appointments. I’m talking about sitting down during appointment visits instead of standing. Asking questions to get to know their patients on a more personal level. And, actively listening to their patients without interruption.
Unfortunately, in our world of healthcare, there is a disconnect between quantity of patients and quality of patient-provider relationships. Healthcare providers are often overbooked and, consequently, overworked. Choose those providers that are able to form a strong rapport with you, instead of making you feel like just a number.
Not everyone is healthcare savvy. You don’t always know what questions to ask. Take out the guesswork. It should not be your responsibility to leave your appointment to research everything the provider just explained to you. You want a provider that can break down medical speak into a digestible format without making you feel like an imbecile.
Plain and simple, choose a healthcare provider that makes your education their number one priority.
Key points to remember:
The choice is yours.
Take charge of your own healthcare.
Your time is important too.
You are not a number.
Your understanding about your health and care takes precedence
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