On many occasions, Dinner Table Doctor is asked to recommend a specialist- orthopedist, psychologists, pediatricians, dermatologists, physical therapists, etc. We live in northeast Ohio, an area blessed with excellent medical facilities and a large selection for most specialists, so the choice can be overwhelming.
Recently we were dining alfresco with some dear friends when one shared her appreciation for a cardiologist recommended by DTD. She was surprised to learn that the two physicians had never met face-to-face. She envisioned DTD knowing this cardiologist personally, perhaps watching him in action on a few occasions, or at the very least swapping case reports during their Wednesday afternoon golf sessions. Never mind that DTD doesn’t golf and can’t take time from his own patient schedule to admire the work of other physicians.
“So how do you know this cardiologist is any good and how were you so sure he’d be a good fit for me?”
DTD explained he bases his recommendations on several different factors. First and foremost he considers his personal interactions with the specialist. Even if they have never met, he receives notes regarding common patients and often he discusses a common patient over the phone when deciding on the best treatment plan. DTD also knows the specialist’s background regarding education and training. One of the most important factors is feedback from DTD’s patients. He always wants to hear about experiences with specialists. Then when he is recommending that specialist to another patient, he tries to paint a very clear picture so they know just what to expect.
“This guy is a good listener; this woman has a curt manner, but is an expert in her field.” The more feedback DTD’s patients (or dinner companions) give about their experiences with these specialists, the better his recommendations for a good doctor-patient fit.
I’m assuming you picked your primary care physician for a reason, and you value her opinion. If not, see my post “You need and Deserve a Good Doctor.” You are seeing this person for medical advice, and part of that advice includes information about specialists.
In addition to getting your doctor’s opinion, don’t be shy about asking all sorts of other people! You can ask the nurses and office staff, ask people in your community via Facebook or an old fashioned barber shop conversation, plus check out Angie’s List and other online sources. You can go to the hospital or specialist’s website and research her education and experience. The more information you have the better your appointment will be with that specialist.
Will your doctor always be spot on with his recommendation? Nope. There have been times when DTD suggested I see specialists who ended up being a terrible fit for me. He’s my husband (and knows me pretty well) but he’s not perfect and a doctor that may have been great for ten other patients just might not gel with me, even though I’m very easy to get along with.
One specialist told me that most people with my diagnosis were dead, and another basically called me fat and lazy. Well, maybe she didn’t use those exact words, but that’s how I interpreted the conversations and I gave full reports to DTD so he would keep that in mind when making future recommendations. Another time, DTD recommended a physical therapist and she really changed my life in a good way. I gave him that feedback as well. (My experiences with these specialists will definitely make future blog posts, so you have something to look forward to!)
Don’t be afraid to communicate with your primary care physician. He is going to refer you to another medical professional at some point, and it is very important that you take ownership by doing your own research on that professional and provide some feedback on that appointment. Your opinion truly helps your doctor know who to recommend.