Jean Gould (Guest): Well, thank you, Melanie, for having me here today with you. Finding the right doctor can certainly be sometimes challenging for people or seem somewhat daunting because there are so many to choose from. Choosing a primary care doctor is probably one of the most important health decisions that people make, so it is important to take the time and do the research needed to find a doctor who has the same beliefs and you have a connection with and you feel comfortable with. There are many things that you can do but I think some of the first things that you want to think about is your insurance carrier and what insurance you have and communicating with them around your choices for who your provider can be--whether they’re in network and out of network. That can mean a big difference in how much you might be paying to visit with that doctor. Another thing to consider is if you have any relationships with nurses or doctors who you might be friends with--ask for their recommendations when you’re searching around for a new health care provider and ask who they recommend might be a good fit for you and what you’re looking for. Also, asking family and friends and who they use and who they would recommend and asking them why and why they would recommend that healthcare provider for you. So, those are just a couple things to start your journey on looking for a new healthcare provider.
Melanie: Those are great tips. So, start with your insurance company, see who’s on that in-network list and ask people that you know that might be in the medical or healthcare community who they would go to or who they like. So then, you’ve found a bunch of them. Can you call doctors and have sort of a meet and greet or a consultation? Do you think that most docs are open to that to see if you like them right off the bat?
Jean: I think that’s certainly a great option. I think that some doctors are certainly open to it. The only problem that people might run into is scheduling. Doctors are so busy these days that sometimes it can get hard to get those meet and greet type of visits scheduled but it’s certainly a great way to get a feel for the office, if you’re able to do that. So, that is definitely one option to consider and something that I think would be very beneficial because you’ll immediately get a feel for how the office runs, how the staff members are and who the doctor is. So, I think that that’s a great idea.
Melanie: Does the staff mean an important decision? Is that part of an important decision, if you don’t like the person at the front desk, does that reflect on the doctor or not necessarily? Some people are just--sometimes they’re not that nice.
Jean: I think that the office staff is very important. Your front line and the people who you are coming in contact with every time that you go into that office is very important. You want to look for an office that has friendly staff that is helpful and also considering how good the staff is at returning calls or how good the office is at returning your calls. Also, taking into consideration hours that the office is open and if they’re convenient to your schedule. Other things would be when we are thinking about staff and the office is how long does it take you to get an appointment? Are you able to get in the same day if you need to so see somebody? It might not be your doctor but do they have a 24-hour process where they can get you in if you are ill or need immediate attention that doesn’t require an emergency department? Office staff, I think, is a big indicator for who you’re going to be encountering on a regular basis when you’re going for your healthcare.
Melanie: What should you bring to that first visit? If you’re going for your first well visit with a new doctor, what do you think? In this age of electronic medical records, do you bring a little zip drive with all of your records, your MRI’s, those CD’s they give you, all of those things? Are you honest with this new doctor about all of your health habits or history? What should you bring with you?
Jean: I think that the first thing that you want to do before you have your appointment is call the office and make sure that they’ve received your medical records or call the doctor’s office and ask how you get your medical records transferred. You do want to ensure that you’re information is there and the doctor has potentially had some time to review your chart before you get there for your visit. If you have some x-rays or things that you think are important that you want to bring with you, that’s perfectly find but most times, they’re able to send that information electronically or through the mail to your new healthcare provider. What I would recommend doing is writing down some of the key pieces of information you feel are really important that you want your doctor to know--whether that’s that you’ve been struggling with high blood pressure or certain medications don’t work for you; you’ve found that you’ve had bad reactions or they make you feel sick--things that kind of have been consistent through your health care needs over the past couple of years. So, writing down some key pieces of information to share with your doctor and to make sure that he or she is aware of those is very important. Being honest is the best way that you are going to get the best care. If we’re not honest with our healthcare provider in sharing the crucial information that he or she needs to make the best healthcare decisions for you, then we’re leaving out a big piece of information to help them the best decisions with you. So, being honest is very important and that honesty only helps you and your healthcare provider treat you in the best way possible.
Melanie: Being honest is so important and if it’s a new doctor, Jean, and you want to talk to them about something sensitive like STI’s, or anything along those lines, do you steel yourself up for that kind of thing? Can you trust the doctor right off the bat? Give us your best advice in just the last few minutes about getting to be close with that doctor, enough that you can share all of those very important bits of information.
Jean: Well, building trust certainly can take some time and that’s why establishing a good relationship with your healthcare provider is very important. If you do have a sensitive subject that is in need of immediate care, yes, I think that it is very important to muster up the trust in the person that you’re meeting and this doctor has your best interest in the forefront of their thoughts. If it’s something that can wait and you want to disclose when you feel a little bit more comfortable with the new doctor, I think that that’s okay in building that trust. But if it’s something that does need immediate attention, it should certainly be something that is brought up as soon as possible. Things to consider when you’re building trust with your healthcare provider is are they listening to you without interrupting? Is he or she answering your questions? Do they explain things to you? All those types of things are going to make you, as the consumer, more confident and trust your healthcare provider that much more. It’s building that relationship and having that two-way communication and making those healthcare decisions together with your healthcare provider being on your team.
Melanie: So, Jean, just wrap it up for us and tell us a little bit about Maine Health Learning Resource Center and why it’s so important that you build this really good relationship with a doctor so that you are your own best advocate and you can get the best healthcare possible.
Jean: Sure. Well, growing research suggests that people who have stronger relationships with their healthcare providers not only report greater satisfaction with their care but also enjoy better health. That’s one strong piece of information that really indicates that developing that relationship with your healthcare provider and your healthcare team because we’re now moving into an era where you’re seen by more of the medical staff at your doctor’s office. So, building those relationships and building that trust is very important. Being prepared and being informed when you’re going to those visits is just better off for the patient themselves Here at the Learning Resource Center, we have many resources to help people do that, to work through some of the confusing information that can be out there and to get more information so when you do go to visit your healthcare provider, you feel informed about what you’re going to talk about and you have some key pieces of information or some topics that you would like to discuss. So, that helps that communication go that much better when the patient is knowledgeable and has that information to go and talk to their doctor with and share and make decisions together.
Melanie: Thank you so much. Such great information. You’re listening to MMC Radio. For more information you can go to mainemedicalcenter.org. That’s mainemedicalcenter.org. MMC.org. This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening.