There are lots of different variables that go into a great healthcare experience. An important, yet often overlooked, factor is your relationship with your doctor. In fact, this relationship can mean the difference in an excellent experience and an experience that’s just ok. And when it comes to your health, “ok” is not ok. I’ve had patients tell me that finding a good doctor, whom they feel comfortable with, can be a scary and difficult process. Well, it doesn’t have to be – if you know what to look for and the right questions to ask. What makes a great physician-patient relationship? For starters, a physician you trust, feel comfortable with, and one who takes the time to listen, and more importantly, advocate on your behalf should be at the very top of your list. These are the characteristics on which my practice was built, but whether you choose me for your healthcare, or someone else, make sure you follow the steps below to ensure it’s the right choice for you and your family.
- Determine the kind of doctor you need. The first step to finding a good physician is to figure out which type is best suited to your potential diagnosis. But where do you start? There are pediatricians, internists, family medical doctors…and this is just the start. The fact is, a Primary Care Doctor is qualified to manage 80-90% of medical diagnoses for patients of all ages – from pediatric, to adult, to the changing needs of older adults, and they can refer you to Specialists when needed. Do you need to start from the beginning with a physical to determine your baseline health? Do you need to establish a relationship with someone who provides pediatric services for your kids – who can do well visits and also accommodate same-day sick appointments. Or do you have a concern or a diagnosis that you need help managing? A Primary Care Doctor can handle all of the above and often for a much lower price point. And of course, we can point you in the right direction when additional services are needed.
- Here’s an example: You injure your back. Where do you go first? An Orthopedist, Neurologist, Rheumatologist, the Emergency Room? Actually, it may surprise you to hear that you should call your Primary Care Provider first. We can screen for the cause, provide stretches, exercise and prescriptions for immediate pain relief and refer you to a specialist if that’s the best course of action. Going directly to a specialist or the ER could cost thousands more and waste valuable time.
A Direct Primary Care doctor, like myself, can also see you for back pain with no added costs such as a co-pay, visit fee, or surprise medical bills months later. Your visit would be included in your membership, and since you have a relationship with your doctor, you can be seen much quicker than in a traditional medical practice model.
- Narrow online choices by your preferences.A quick online search will show you physicians, but it’s not always the best choice to pick the physician at the top of the list – just because they are at the top of the list.
Location, location, location: Is the doctor conveniently located for your home or work? This will be especially important when you are sick, have an unexpected illness or accident, or need to get in and out quickly.
Don’t assume:Make sure the doctor is accepting new patients. Just because a practice appears in an online search, doesn’t mean they are taking new patient appointments. Many established physicians are often closed to new patients. Or in the event they are taking new patients, their office will often make you an appointment with a Nurse Practitioner or a mid-level provider instead of a physician. If the physician is affiliated with a hospital, you’ll likely make your appointment with an outside call center and not the actual practice, making it difficult to get personalized answers to questions prior to your appointment.
Do your due diligence: Does the physician you are considering have social media or an online presence? This is a great way to get a sense of their personality and the culture of their office. We’re often our most vulnerable during a doctor’s appointment, yet we’re stuck in a cold, small room waiting for the doctor – a room that automatically makes you feel worse, not better. All doctor’s offices are not created equally, and the fact is, they don’t have to feel cold and uncomfortable. Make sure you’re checking out pictures of the inside of your doctor’s office in advance, so you can determine if it’s a place you’ll feel comfortable.
A simple Google search will also tell you if the physician is independent or part of a larger medical system. There’s certainly pros and cons to this, but I’ve had many patients tell me they felt like a “number” and not a person, and were often rushed through their appointments. Fact is, if you feel like a number, you are probably viewed as just a number, just another patient, by the practice. Many physicians are also bound by rules and restrictions enforced by their practice, the hospital, insurance companies or some other third party player, so while they certainly care about you, they may not be able to provide the kind of personal care they want and you deserve.
Direct Primary Care takes away the burden of inefficient bureaucracy and puts the doctor-patient relationship first. At Priority Care, I own my practice and am not governed by the hospital system or insurance companies. Instead, we would work as a team to provide you with individualized care.
- Here’s an example: In order to get the best reimbursements from insurance companies, or comply with big hospital system requirements, a doctor with a traditional medical office has a certain list of checkboxes they have to complete during every visit – regardless of how relevant they are. At Priority Care, you’re more than a number or a checkbox – you’re an individual patient who would receive evidence-based care – personalized just for you.
- Make an appointment. The appointment process is a critical piece of your overall care.Can you make an appointment with your doctor easily and quickly, even when the unexpected occurs? Can you be guaranteed access to your personal physician and not just whomever is available? Can you communicate directly with your physician over the phone or after hours? If the answer to even one of these questions is “no”, then it might be time to re-evaluate your patient-physician relationship.
At Priority Care, your first appointment would be scheduled for an hour, allowing me to address all your questions and concerns and ensure you are comfortable with your care. You can make same day or next day appointments with me – not another provider or PA. And most importantly, you would have access to my personal phone number and email, so you can call or text me anytime without making an appointment.
- Here’s an example: You have what you believe to be a simple urinary tract infection. Should you take time off work, away from home, to make an appointment just for the doctor to validate what you already know? At Priority Care, you could give me a call and I can treat you over the phone. In the event an appointment is needed, I would get you in the same day or the next day, and there wouldn’t be an additional charge because all visits are covered in your Direct Primary Care Membership.
Navigating the healthcare system isn’t always easy but finding the right care partner can mean all the difference. Whether you choose to partner with me in your health care journey or another provider, make sure you are putting your needs and feelings at the top of your priority list. I’d love the opportunity to provide you with incredible, personalized healthcare in an environment that feels like home, while showing you that all primary care providers are not created equally.
Dr. Melissa Jones, DO – Priority Care