In a previous column, I talked
about the ins and outs of looking for a doctor if you don’t
have one. Sometimes, though, even if you think you’ve
chosen well, things don’t work out. When should you switch
to a new doctor?
If, after careful consideration, you think there’
a bad fit, you shouldn’t feel intimidated if you want
to look again. The most important elements to consider in evaluating
a doctor’s care are the medical results of his or her
Beyond that, keep in mind the same factors that
you considered when you were looking:
-Does the doctor listen to you without interrupting,
and take you complaints seriously?
-Does he or she ask questions and encourage
you to ask questions?
-Does he or she speak with you in language you
-Are appointments tough to get?
-Does the doctor listen?
So pay close attention to the first three questions
on the list when you evaluate the care you’re getting.
Communication is especially important if you’re
seeing different specialists for a variety of problems. Each
doctor should know what the others are doing, in order to avoid
dangerous drug interactions, among other difficulties.
If you are in that situation, it is always best
to have a gerontologist in charge. A good gerontologist has
the deepest knowledge of the big picture, so he or she might
be able to reduce the need for specialists. (as for relatives,
if you don’t like your loved one’s doctor, but he
or she does, it is always best to just accept it. If, however,
your relative isn’t mentally competent to make such decisions
independently, then you should get involved).
If the time comes to switch doctors, make sure
you get copies of all your medical records, including X-ray
and diagnostic test results. Your medical records are legally
your property and not the doctor’s.
Make sure you know what medications you’re
taking, both prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs. Don’t
forget to take your copies of your insurance cards, too.
The vast majority of doctors are dedicated and
compassionate individuals, so serious problems are rare. If
you have questions about your care, though, keep in mind the
Patient Bill of Rights, developed by the American Hospital Association.
It’s not a binding legal document, but a set of guidelines
for ethical medical care, intended for both doctors and patients.
According to the AHA, all patients have:
-the right to have considerate and respectful
-the right to obtain complete and current information
-the right to receive from their physicians
enough information to give informed to consent for their treatment
-the right to gain access to all records pertaining
to their care
-the right to continuity of care
-the right to recognition of their dignity as
a human being
As you evaluate your medical care, please keep
in mind one of my favorite sayings, which I use in every talk
I give: “Dignity does not atrophy when the body becomes