Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Twenty Years of Choosing a Doctor
Twenty years ago I was speaking to the public at community meetings for older adults, civic organizations, religious communities and as I met people in the park, the train station and the malls. I was asking them “what do you know about your doctor?” When they didn’t have an answer I would ask “what do you like about your doctor?” I was asking this to people to introduce them to the need for physician profiles or a place to look up information about their doctor. Not because they would be judging their doctor but so they can have some knowledge about this person they are hiring to make life or death decisions with them - or for them or for the person they love.
So, what has changed? Twenty years later I still start my presentation about patient safety or patient centered care in the similar way and also ask the question: “who here likes their doctor?” When the hands go up, I ask “Why?” Twenty years ago people responded that the doctor was nice, had good office hours, took their insurance or they have been going to them for years.
The last few years I’ve noticed a shift. Now I hear comments like; He explains things to me, I understand what he/she is saying and he/she spends time with me or he calls me back. Even when in a high school, youth are interested in a doctor who talks to them and not their parent and when a doctor knows their name.
People are looking up information on their physician and using that as a guide to who they may use. With so many specialists now it’s hard to know which clinician will be in charge of your care. It looks like people are getting more sophisticated in deciding what they want and expect from their clinician. So what is the point of asking if someone likes their doctor? Because when I ask who doesn’t like their doctor and the hands go up, I remind them that the referrals are right there in the room.