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5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Doctor

October is open enrollment, and for many of you that means selecting a new health plan and doctor. Here are 5 things you need to know before selecting the right doctor for you and your family.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD
5-minute read
Episode #249

Avoid internet ratings

Honestly, my personal opinion is that doctors should never have a yelp profile or other online health grades. Anyone can go online and rate, and even remain anonymous. That means even personal contacts of the doctors, their dismayed colleagues, and disgruntled patients.

But providing medical care is a complex issue. Sometimes the patients may not feel satisfied despite the physician’s best intentions. A great example is a patient with a history of addiction who may have been denied a medication that the physician felt was not in their best interest. Or perhaps a patient who “doesn’t like to go to the doctor” (which is not uncommon) who is seen after 10 years and upset by the doctor's attempts to ensure their preventative screenings are met (mammograms, colonoscopies, vaccines, etc.)—they just want to be left alone. Personality mismatches can happen, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that either party did something wrong.

On the other hand, friends and family members can get online and inflate the ratings in favor of the physician, too.

If you read them, please take these ratings with a grain of salt.

A better way to gauge how you may connect with a physician is to ask around. Is there a family member or neighbor whose opinion you trust? Who is their doctor? The odds of making a connection with a doctor is higher if someone you know has a positive personal experience to share.

If you read them, please take internet ratings with a grain of salt.

Language considerations

It’s no secret that my name is not an easy one to say. But I obviously speak English and have excellent communication skills. Try not to make assumptions about language disparities. I’ve had patients reveal that they weren’t quite certain if I spoke English well enough before they met me, and were hoping that I spoke well enough to communicate. That one makes me cringe a little.

But, if you yourself feel more comfortable speaking in another language, then by all means select a physician that is fluent in that language. Most health plan lists will include that information. If they don’t, ask for it.

Never judge a book by its cover

When I meet a patient for the first time, can you guess what question I get asked the most? “How old are you?”—in various forms, of course; it may be a statement such as, “Wow, you look so young.” Assuming the age of a person is always dangerous territory, and I know this because of experience seeing so many patients. I’ve had 90-year-olds appear in their 60s, and 30-year-olds appear with a physiologic age in their 50s.

As for myself, unfortunately I get asked these questions less and less through time. They may have bothered me a tad when I first started, but now I actually enjoy it and take it as a compliment. But other doctors may not. And the truth is, does it really matter? But I’ll tell you this, it would surprise you how savvy some young physicians are when they first leave residency. And they are often very up-to-date.

My advice, don’t focus on age or make assumptions that the doctor is incapable based on it. Most medical groups, especially larger ones, have very strict criteria when employing physicians. They’ve often already done the work for you. If it’s a reputable medical group, then you can be almost sure that the physician is capable.

My answer, by the way? “I’ve completed an extra 11 years of school and training after high school, and have now been practicing medicine for 13 years.”

Unfortunately for me, everyone can now do the math. Let’s keep it between us, please.

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Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only.  This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider.  Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

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Medical Disclaimer
Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

About the Author

Sanaz Majd, MD

Dr. Sanaz Majd is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who graduated from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Her special interests are women's health and patient education.