How to Choose a Doctor
tice helping victims of medical malpractice in Los Angeles and Southern California, the Law Offices of Steven L. Martin has learned that most medical mistakes are avoidable; most often they are the result of negligence, carelessness, or just plain incompetence on the part of the doctor or other medical professional. While perhaps not all mistakes can be avoided, it is essential to your health care that you choose a doctor who is not only competent to treat you but exercises the proper level of care when doing so. How do you know if you are choosing the right doctor? The following article provides some tips and suggestions that may help you find a good doctor that is right for you.
Interview the Doctor
When selecting a doctor, you are basically hiring a professional to provide you with a service, only in this case the service is very personal and very important. Whether you are finding a doctor from the phone book or based on a referral from a friend, take the time to meet with the doctor before committing to a long-term relationship. After you have conducted some basic research, schedule a brief consultation with the doctor. This can be done as part of a physical examination or as a separate visit, depending upon your comfort level and immediate needs.
To prepare for your visit, take some preliminary steps. You can search beforehand to determine if the doctor is currently licensed or has ever been subject to discipline. You will also want to check your insurance policy, and draw up a list of questions to bring to the visit. These steps are described in more detail below.
Licensing and Discipline
Some things you may want to know include whether your doctor:
- is currently licensed
- has any history of disciplinary action
- has any disciplinary charges (accusations) pending before the board
- has any criminal convictions relevant to the doctor’s professional practice or ethical conduct
- has any malpractice judgments entered against him or her
The Medical Board of California licenses and disciplines all medical doctors in the state. This agency can provide you with public-record information on California-licensed physicians. With a simple phone call or internet search, you can find out if a doctor’s license is current and renewed, and whether any administrative-related actions have been taken against the doctor. If you find that the doctor has been the subject of Board charges or an administrative-related action, you can order a copy of any public-record documents relating to the charge or action. You can also access records of criminal convictions or civil judgments through the California Superior Court system and other government agencies. This information may not be complete, however, as there are ways to keep certain criminal and civil actions free from public view.
Know Your Insurance
Depending upon the type of health insurance you have (HMO, PPO), you may be limited in your choice of doctors, including your primary care physician as well as any specialists you may wish to see. It is also important to know whether the doctor you select is in the insurance company’s network of approved providers. While you may be able to select a doctor who is out-of-network, you may have higher co-pays and deductible amounts.
Questions to Ask
Make a list of questions that are important to you regarding your doctor. For instance, you may want to ask the following:
- Who will you see when the doctor is not available?
- Will you usually see the doctor, or does a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner handle most visits?
- Does the doctor have any areas of specialty? Is the doctor board-certified in these areas?
- Which hospital(s) does the doctor have privileges at?
- If you have particular conditions or areas of concern, are these areas the doctor has much experience with?
The doctor may want to ask you some questions too. Be prepared to share basic information about yourself, such as your personal and family medical/health history, current medications, goals and concerns for your medical care. Based on these facts, the doctor may be able to describe a general plan for your health care, which you can use to assess whether the doctor’s approach (conservative, aggressive, etc.) matches with your own desires. Don’t expect too much detail, however, unless you are actually undergoing a physical examination, complete with laboratory diagnostic testing.
Reflect on Your Visit
Did the doctor make time for you during this visit, or did you feel rushed? Doctors are busy and see many patients a day, but it is important that when the doctor is with you, you feel that you are getting the doctor’s undivided attention, and that you have the time and opportunity to bring up and discuss issues important to your health. Also, did you feel a connection with the doctor? Is this someone you can talk to and discuss private health matters with? The doctor-patient relationship is a close one, and you want to feel comfortable with your doctor.
We hope this information is helpful to you. If you ever believe that your health was compromised by incompetence or negligence on the part of a doctor, nurse, hospital, or other health care professional, contact the Law Offices of Steven L. Martin for a free consultation.