One of the best ways to judge a prospective doctor’s quality is through the recommendation from another doctor. Most doctors are sincerely interested in the well-being of their patients and refer them to the doctors they believe offer the best care.
If you are asking a medical professional why he or she is recommending a doctor, listen for an answer that includes how impressive this specialist is in the field of cardiac research or surgery. Key phrases are “participated in clinical trials” and “presented papers at professional conferences.” These are extra-effort activities that earn respect among medical peers. But don’t stop there; listen for clues about this prospective doctor’s bedside manners as well as his superstar performance at last year’s medical conference. However, as Phoenix cardiologist Dr. Rebecca Allison notes, “Some doctors who don’t do research are still very good doctors.”
Don’t assume that someone is a good cardiologist or surgeon just because your primary care doctor has referred you to him. Sometimes doctors fall into referral patterns of always recommending the same doctor down the hallway or a former college roommate. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it helps if you know this piece of background information.
If you are talking with other patients or friends, a good follow-up question is, “How did you originally find this doctor?” For example, if the person found this specialist without doing her homework, or even worse, from the Yellow Pages, take this person’s diminished credibility into account.
If you are asking a medical professional, you want to hear that this person has worked closely with the recommended doctor for a number of years. If you are seeking a second opinion, the doctors may not know each other as well, so listen for clues about the prospective doctor’s reputation.
Depending on the referrer’s degree of openness and willingness to talk, you may get all the details you need by simply asking how satisfied she is. Be sure to press gently for details on the areas that need improvement. Everyone has shortcomings. Use this question to decide if you can live with this doctor’s particular deficiencies or quirks.
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