I am often asked by someone how they can find the right health care professional to address their health issues. Unfortunately, I all too often have someone relate to me, after the fact, they have been diagnosed, treated by some local “expert”, and suffered a likely avoidable negative consequence that simply cannot be undone.
I have the unique perspective of being incorrectly treated nearly forty years ago by someone I regrettably put my faith in. My consequence is that I am, to this day, not being treated for the original problem, but receiving ongoing treatment for a much worse secondary problem resulting from the physician’s misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment.
My long career began in health care. And then, following decades of work as a consultant and executive in various business sectors, I circled back to where I began, but with a twist. For over a decade I was employed by professional athletes to manage the affairs related to their health and performance. Some came to me healthy, others not so. Those had been injured during their careers, their recoveries had not been entirely successful, and so they were playing impaired. I assumed the responsibility for returning their health to them.
Related to that task I carried Health Care Power of Attorney for each of them. I sourced and managed their interactions/appointments with health care Providers whom I chose with their consent and agreement. And I accompanied them on all appointments. These included Physicians, Surgeons, Physical and Therapists, as well as ancillary specialists in Yoga, Pilates, Massage Therapy, and others as appropriate. My efforts were notable and successful, for example with Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers who I returned to unlimited activity following several consecutive years of injuries. For my work with him and many others, Men’s Health Magazine gave me the nickname, “The Muscle Whisperer”.
For those in the “normal” population, experiencing a health issue or even a health crisis, seeking appropriate clinicians presents a dilemma. First, who do they go to? I have noted in the past the average person spends more time in locating the “right” person to roof their home than they do in finding the right doctor. The more serious the health issue the more critical it is to find the best physician. The fact is the odds are stacked against you. In health care, as in any other service area, the 80/20 rule prevails. I’ve previously explained this in this way. 20% of health care workers range from excellent to exceptional or “world class”. The remaining 80% range from very good to criminal. The odds are most people will find someone in the second group. And if you have a health issue that threatens your very life, or your quality of life, this isn’t a good choice. So, how do you improve your odds of retaining the right specialist for your problem?
First, ignore the friendly and well-intended advice of family members, those from your church, your golfing partner, or even others in the health care field. They will always refer you to colleagues, or someone who they know or who they are friends with. Then, you must face the fact that the best medicine is found in major cities; New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Madison, Miami, Denver, Louisville, etc. All of these have major University Medical Schools. The physicians who practice there, or a significant number of them, are Adjunct Faculty, teaching student doctors. They are likely to be proficient with new treatments, technology, medicines, etc. And some are involved in clinical trials having to do with all these. As much as you believe your mid-size city is the mecca of modern medicine, or you grew up in the era when all doctors were gods, your faith in these are misplaced.
Second, do your research. Check the potential doctor candidate out online. Google them for their academic background. Where did they do their undergraduate studies, and what was their major? Where did they attend medical school? Did they do a post-graduate internship or fellowship under the supervision of a notable specialist in the field as many of the best who are handpicked do? Have they authored and published professional journal articles, participated in research These can be found on the NIH, National Institutes of Health, website. The more information you can find on your candidate, and the best will have reams of information, the more secure you can be in your choice.
Third, interview the final candidate. That may seem absurd. But if you had to undergo an interview sometime in your career, why should they object? If you notify the appointment desk of your intent, and you go with a brief, but well-prepared list of questions and concerns, the doctor should not be put off or feel slighted. Also let them know if you’ve been seen previously, by whom, and what their treatment suggestions were. If you have been seen previously, bring a copy of your Treatment Summary from the prior doctor, including an MR-CD if an MRI has been done. This isn’t the time for small talk. Keep it to no more than ten to fifteen minutes. If you are satisfied with the information you’ve gathered, and if the doctor is the right fit for you, ask for a follow-up appointment before you leave the office.
What I have described here is an exact representation of how I have approached my own health care management over many, many years. And it is how I have approached assisting hundreds of clients. It works, and it will work for you. Don’t be shy, and you won’t become a victim of a system where you are often simply a patient number.