Many times throughout our lifetimes, we are forced to rely upon doctors for our health and wellbeing, and even for our lives. A wrong decision could mean the difference between life and death. A mis-diagnosis, or a delay in treatment, could result in years of suffering, or worse.
Over and over again, we hear horror stories of people who have been harmed and sometimes killed by incompetent doctors. It can happen to anyone. Every patient has the right to be treated by a qualified physician. In order to make an intelligent decision, it is necessary to do some research in advance.
What you need to know
1. Is the doctor licensed to practice in your area?
Each state maintains a list of licensed doctors. You can find this information at your state’s medical licensing board.
2. Is he board-certified?
To obtain board certification, a doctor must complete a residency at a hospital and pass a written exam in his specialty.
3. Has he been charged with malpractice?
It is important to learn the disposition of these cases, if any. If a doctor has 3 or more malpractice charges or if he has been disciplined by his state licensing board, he should be avoided.
4. Does he have hospital privileges?
You need to know that if your condition warrants hospitalization, your doctor has the ability to admit you to the hospital.
5. Is his practice limited? Does he have the authority to write prescriptions?
A doctor who does not have the authority to write prescriptions should be avoided. Many maladies can be easily cured with a simple medication. If your doctor is not able to provide you with this, you may suffer needlessly.
7. Where did he attend school and obtain his medical training?
If your doctor’s diploma and residency certificate were issued by an unknown school, or one from a third-world country, you should be wary of his credentials.
6. Has your doctor participated in research or published in medical journals?
Doctors who participate in continuing education are likely to be up to date on the latest treatments. On the other hand, if a doctor habitually participates in clinical trials, he may be on the payroll of pharmaceutical companies and be more likely to encourage you to take expensive medications.
Once you are satisfied that your doctor is competent, there are a few other questions you should ask in order to ensure that you have chosen the right doctor for you.
1. Do I need a primary care doctor, or a specialist?
A good primary care doctor will be able to refer you to a specialist if you need one. Be sure to do your research on each doctor you choose.
2. Is he the right age for me?
If you are looking for a doctor who will be able to treat you for years to come, you may not want to choose one who is elderly. On the other hand, older, retired patients may not be comfortable with a doctor who is younger than their children.
3. Does the doctor communicate well, and respectfully?
You want a doctor who is able to explain things in a way that you can easily understand. You also want to feel that he respects your right to ask questions until your concerns are addressed.
4. Does this doctor make me feel comfortable?
Other than competency, this may be the most important question of all. If you are not comfortable with your doctor, you may have a tendency to avoid telling him things that may be critical to your health. This could result in a failure to receive timely treatment.
In conclusion, most people spend more time researching a new car than they do investigating their doctor. Don’t be most people. Do your homework and you will be able to rest assured that you have chosen the best doctor for your needs.
John Davis is writing on behalf of Golomb and Honik, P.C., Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys. John is a freelance writer specializing in health and wellness.