Sunday, June 23, 2013

How do you know you should trust your doctor?

Really, you don't.

You can read about her on one or another "rating" website, and those sites may be helpful.  You know which ones they are.  You want to remember, of course, that the information you get there is filtered through the questions the website developer asks folks - and those questions might not be helpful, or persuasive, or give you the full picture.  So, "Do you have to wait a long time at your doctor's?" sounds like it gets to the root of one of your pet peeves, and mine, too.  But if your doc is a thoughtful, brilliant, soft-touch goof who can't turn down ANY patient, well, then, she's late because she's actually practicing medicine.  Don't be angry.  Applaud her.

Sure, ask your friends and your family; you might be surprised by their motives in sending you to one doc or another!

Ask another doctor?  Go ahead, but take the answer with 6 grains of salt.

Ask a nurse?  OK.  But remember that nurses are people, too.  Their answers reflect their last interaction with that doctor.

Enough.

Here's what I'd urge you to do.

First, check out your doc on the state medical board website.  You would like to know if your doc is a creep.  Don't go by malpractice suits!  Anybody can bring one against a doc for any reason, and the vast majority (but not all) are not about MEDICAL issues but rather about PEOPLE issues.  You might not be that kind of person.

Second, check out your doc on any website where you can find out where she went to medical school and where she did a residency and maybe a fellowship.  These might be important - might not be, but might....  There are plenty of good people who became good docs who came out of Lower Slobbovia Medical School.  Maybe your cousin...?

You want to put together an entire picture.  Reputation.  Education.  Whatever.

Third, GO TO SEE THE DOCTOR.  At least once.  And you must always...always...ALWAYS...ask these 2 simple questions:

  • Doc, what else could I have?
  • Doc, WHY DO YOU THINK I HAVE THIS?
Your doctor should always have a picture of other possibilities that could cover what you present with.  She should be able to rank them in order of likelihood that you could have one or another, and - even more important - the seriousness of the threat to your normal life and present way you live posed by each of these possibilities.

If your doctor says something like, "Now...I'm the doctor...and I say you have XYZ..." well, then, bullshit.  Pretty much only an autopsy will tell you exactly what you have, and folks don't live through their own autopsy.

And your doc had better be able to explain to you why she thinks you have what she's diagnosing.  None of this crap like "Now, now, doctor knows best...." (She doesn't, and YOU don't, but maybe you both, together, could).  Or, "I just don't have the time..." (She does because she needs to remember that the reason she became a doctor is because you're scared, not because she needs to drive an Audi 8).  Or, "You just wouldn't understand...." (Biggest bullshit: your doc's responsibility is to find a way to make sure you understand and accept her diagnosis, otherwise there's no way you'll help in getting you better.)

And, fourth, see how you feel.  Yes, feel.  You'll hear people say every day, "Oh, Doctor ABC is an asshole, but she's so very smart...."  Too bad.  The world is full of smart, and even smarter, people.  Your doc had better be able to relate to you totally, completely.  Yes, she might have a bad day - her kid pooped on her shoes, her husband met her lover at a CW bar, whatever.  But she had better know how to engage you in her life, just as you want to engage her in your own.

So, how do you know you should trust your doctor?

You don't know.  But you just might get it right anyway.

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