Doctor who? How to answer the dreaded recommendation question

My friends and family know that I work in the health care industry. So they often ask me to recommend a doctor for their child, or their torn rotator cuff, or their chronic fatigue. I find it really hard to offer recommendations on medical providers when asked. Choosing a doctor is a very personal decision, so when I’m faced with this question, I tend to answer it with questions: what’s important to you? Is it the office staff, the office environment, the doctor’s indefinable “bedside manner”? Are you willing to drive an extended distance to keep a long-standing relationship with a provider? Not everyone agrees on what makes a good doctor — or good care.Personally, I find myself gravitating to providers that want to know the whole me, not just about my sore knee or whatever brought me to the office that day. What’s causing my knee to hurt? Did I tweak it skiing, overuse it riding in a long-distance cycling event, or it is because I’ve gained weight recently? The response to the question would let the provider know about me, and what may be the best way to resolve my injury.

I encourage friends and family to make their decision based on their own preferences — not who I like or don’t like. Ultimately, the most important factor is how well you can collaborate with the provider to get the care you need. But you have to start somewhere, so I encourage friends and family to do research. There’s a wealth of information on-line. We shop online for food, clothing, even cars and houses, but many people aren’t used to the idea that they can also shop online for information about providers. Google, your health insurance company’s website, and practice websites can all be great sources of information. After all, not everyone wants drive the same car – and we don’t all want to go to the same doctor.

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