A number of relatively recent surveys show that Americans are very skeptical about the medical profession. The International Social Survey Programme found that while many patients in the U.S. are satisfied with the treatments that they receive, they have a hard time trusting doctors in general. There are a number of theories for why this is, from the political climate to misunderstandings as to who runs hospitals and clinics.
But the fact remains that there’s an element of trust that is missing, which can be difficult for anyone that needs the help of a physician.
Communication is the First Step in Building Trust
Like any relationship, finding a doctor you can trust largely comes down to communication. It’s the key to selecting the right doctor and improving the partnership over time. And it’s a two-way street.
First, the Research Phase
The two best ways to begin the process of finding a trustworthy doctor is to A) ask people you know and trust for references and B) use reputable online review sites. Three review sites to try are Vitals.com, RateMDs.com and Healthgrades.com. Follow up by visiting the website of each doctor that appears reputable and specializes in the practice that you need.
Second, the Reconnaissance Phase
Once you have found a few doctors that look like viable options, it’s time to pick up the phone and start making calls. This will give you a firsthand experience with the clinic, which is a great way to ascertain how patients are cared for. If the front desk is friendly, warm and accommodating on the phone that’s a good indicator that the doctors value providing patients with the best care possible.
Look for a doctor that has invested in a patient relationship management system. Companies like Solutionreach are making it affordable for virtually any practice to implement a system by using cloud technology. Ask doctors if they use a patient relationship management system and how they handle various forms of communication. Sometimes the follow up is just as important as the initial visit.
Ask about credentials. A medical license means a doctor can practice basically anything. Certifications from one of the 24 boards at the American Board of Medical Specialties shows that the doctor went through additional training and testing to prove their knowledge in a specific field of medicine. Most of the time doctors will display their accreditations and educational achievements on their website. However, sometimes these aren’t apparent unless you ask about them directly.
Third, the Medical History Phase
After you find a doctor you feel like you can trust the real work begins. Many patients tend to downplay their bad behavior, play up healthy habits and/or fail to communicate real issues that they are having. All too often these days people also research symptoms on Google and convince themselves that they have a particular ailment. If the doctor isn’t getting the full story there’s no way that they can give you optimal care. Doctors have a way of finding out through their work if a patient is being less than honest, and that is never a productive start to a trusting relationship.
The Health Insurance Factor
In a perfect world we would all have access to any doctor of our choosing. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world with health insurance companies that each have their own network. This includes Medicare.
Essentially, the network is a group of doctors, clinics and hospitals that have agreed to provide services for a health insurance company’s customers at a pre-determined rate. Depending on your company and policy you may or may not get assistance through insurance if you choose a doctor outside of the network. If you do get assistance it will be significantly less than staying within the network.
Unfortunately, due to the soaring cost of healthcare, your health insurance network is going to be a part of the process of finding a physician. But there’s one caveat. Unless the online doctor directory is regularly updated, there may be high quality physicians that are within your network, but you just don’t know it. If you find a doctor that you really like but they aren’t listed, ask the clinic’s claims and billing department if they accept your insurance.
Ultimately you want a reputable doctor that specializes in a certain medical field and has a personality type that makes you feel comfortable. Working with a doctor takes a fair amount of trust because your health is in their hands. But if you do your homework and focus on effective communication you’ll be among the patients that are satisfied with the care they receive.