Thursday, March 18, 2010

Doctor Shopping

(CNN) -- New in town, Brandy Preston reasoned that it was only lunch. She liked the fact that there were no strings attached. If she didn't like the person, she could just say, "It was nice to meet you," and leave.

"I was surprised because it felt so comfortable and I wasn't afraid to ask questions," the 29-year-old said. "I mean, I'd finally met the right match.
"This gynecologist was exactly who I wanted."

Call it speed dating for doctors. Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital, near Fort Worth, has launched a program called Doc Shop that invites prospective patients to casually meet and size up a lot of doctors in a short amount of time.

I thought this was an interesting concept. I read it on CNN a week ago. Obviously it has its flaws, but the idea was fascinating to me. And I think on many levels, it makes sense. Finding a doctor is like finding a life partner. It's not just about credentials, qualifications, publications. It's not about where he works, whether he's in network, his waiting list and availability. It's also a relationship. And like all relationships, it's about personalities and compatibilities. And the truth is, because we're all different individuals, there will be some doctors we like, and some we don't. Some personalities are better suited to some, and not others.

I caught myself thinking about my doctor-persona. I know I've had some people who didn't want to come back to see me. Thankfully, the majority of my patients and I get along supremely well. They know humor is a big part of my life and I joke incessantly. My patients who know me, know I mean it endearingly when I refer to them as 'trouble'. Uh-oh, here comes trouble, I'd say, and the old guys would just snigger because they know I know they just came from the McDonald's downstairs. On hospital rounds, I'd ask the wives of the patients if they wanted us to keep them in the hospital for another week, to get them off their hands. They always have that tempted look.

They also know my views on the scope and responsibility as a doctor. I say I'm not here to tell them what to do; my job is to provide enough information for them to make the right choices. I make it no secret that I hope they'll pick the right choice for their health but in the end, it's really up to them. And they know I don't like to bullshit; if I don't know I'll just flat out say it. Why they're gaining weight? Dunno. Why is their skin dry? Beats me. Why are they losing hair? Look bud, if I knew the answer...
(and I'm not sure why physicians think these are all hormonal disorders).

I get along swell with most of them. I'm sure there are those who prefer a different kind of doctor and there are those who won't like how I work, and I don't take it personally (I try not to, anyway). I'm reminded of the all-knowing, emeritus-type Dr. S, who was considered a God in his field. He does not explain, does not give choices- he just tells patients what they're doing wrong and what needs to be done. And while I've seen him make some patients cry, many a patients remain loyal to him. As one patient once told me, "Doc, I don't want to know. You're the smart one (my wife would disagree) so you just pick the right treatment for me."

And so, I do think finding a doctor is also about finding a person whose personality matches yours. It's one thing we don't think about, beyond making sure this doctor is qualified and not some serial killer/quack/psycho, whether this doctor as a person, is right for me?

Food for thought.


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