A good doctor treats a disease while a great doctor treats the patient.
What does it take to be a great doctor?
A great doctor is more than someone who attended a famous school or is associated with a respected hospital. A great doctor is special.
Being a great doctor is more than learning a skill or specialty. A great doctor knows how and when to use that knowledge.
A great doctor is someone you never hesitate to introduce to your friends
Traits of a Great Doctor
Doctors tend to look at themselves differently than their patients do. Doctors speak of their fellow doctors that are effective at treating an ailment as being a good or even a great doctor. They like to emphasize that doctors need to be knowledgeable and confident. These are good traits but they are not what the average person views as most important.
A great doctor has traits the can be condensed into four groups.
Listens & Cares
Understands & Respects
Explains & Teaches
Trust & Experience
Listens & Cares
• A great doctor makes the effort to show he has time for you. A great doctor takes the time to sit down and listen to you. He is interested in you more than just as a patient. He makes an effort to try to find out what bothers you most and what you hope he can do for you. A great doctor gets the whole story before deciding the path to take.
• A great doctor looks you in the eye, not at the computer screen. He is not distracted by noises. He focuses on you and does not let his staff interrupt his time with you. A great doctor will ask questions and encourage you to speak more freely. A great doctor genuinely cares for his patients and he shows it.
Understands & Respects
• A great doctor shows he understands and is respectful of your situation. He knows it can be difficult and at times frightening when we experience unknown and sudden changes in our health. We rely upon our doctor to bring calm and peace back into our lives.
• A great doctor considers the whole person. If you are being treated for a condition that requires assistance he will try to understand your home environment – do you have someone to drive you or assist with daily tasks?
• A great doctor is more interested in trying to get you off medications than on them. When he has to prescribe an expensive medicine he will try to understand if you can afford it. There is no point in prescribing something if you cannot buy it.
• The great doctor shows respect. The doctor respects your time as much as you respect his. He doesn’t leave you sitting waiting forever only to pop in and give you 15 seconds to explain why you came.
• A great doctor respects your privacy and will not discuss important information in an open setting. He will always take care to make sure you are dressed and not put in an embarrassing situation.
Explains & Teaches
• A great doctor will speak loudly and clearly. He or she will use words that you understand. The doctor will explain the treatment plan. He will do more than just hand you a print out and tell you to read it. He will speak to you and confirm you understand and can actually follow the plan.
• A great doctor will not be bothered if you ask him to explain how your life might be affected by the treatment. He wants you to understand as much as you can. He will help you understand your condition and what you can expect. He wants you to be informed so you and he can best manage your treatment together.
• A great doctor makes himself available in case something goes wrong. You start a new treatment plan you want someone you can depend upon to tell what to do should the treatment make you sick. No one wants to listen to an answering machine tell you, “any message left after 3 pm, we will get back to you the next day."
Trust & Experience
“To be a doctor … means much more than to dispense pills or to patch up or repair torn flesh and shattered minds. To be a doctor is to be an intermediary between man and GOD,” by Felix Marti-Ibanez in To Be a Doctor.
Dr. Marti-Ibanez wrote these words as encouragement. Unfortunately, many doctors think they earned this position along with their degree. Such a high pedestal requires a lot of trust. Something most people do not give freely. But something that can be earned.
• Many doctors believe they can be great if they attend the most famous school and master the fundamentals. A doctor with a fantastic education does not equal a great doctor. Where the doctor trained does not always reflect on a doctor’s ability nor his or her personality.
• Most people assume doctors are competent even if they have no experience with the doctor. But most people do not trust their doctor 100% the first time they meet. Trust builds up with time.
• Many doctors believe documenting their patient’s illness and understanding blood results is enough to effectively treat their patient and be a wonderful doctor. This is far from the truth and patients know this.
Doctors run more expensive tests than they need to. Most patients already understand that and don’t trust the testing. Relying heavily on tests does not build trust. Plus it can cost people a lot of money.
♦ What people do understand is a hands-on examination. It has been shown that hands-on examinations build trust and help create more of a patient-centered experience. It has also been found that there is a higher percentage of misdiagnosis when doctors skip examinations and rely solely on test results.
Trust is about trusting that your doctor puts your interest ahead of anything else. Trust really gets mangled up when we learn the doctor has a financial interest in the treatment plan or the treatment facility.
♦ Experience is important, but it is difficult to measure. We tend to trust older doctors more than younger doctors because we believe they have had more experience.
Your doctor's experience will play a critical role in your health care. You should not be afraid to ask your doctor how much experience he has with your condition. A great doctor will not hesitate to explain how people he treated with a similar situation fared.
♦ The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) called for a public website that would include information on physician quality, including patient outcomes, continuity, and coordination of care, efficiency, and safety. That site is managed by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The site is called Compare Care.
The intent of the Affordable Care Act is good but the site shows there is a lot more work to be done.
• Most of the data collected at this site comes from physicians that accept Medicare. However, not all doctors that accept Medicare have joined Physician Compare. Still the site is worth checking out. Search your location based upon zip code and your doctor's last name. If your doctor is in the system he may have a performance score. It is important that you check this out but don't weigh this too heavily.
Some groups may have patient survey scores while most do not. The performance scores are presented as stars and a percent. These represent the percentage of patients that reported the most positive responses.
♦ While you are online searching physician data it would not hurt to see how your local hospital is rating. CMS has much more information on hospitals because of stronger reporting rules.
Don't forget to check out how well infection control is handled because this is a very dangerous growing problem. You don't want the hospital to make you sick.
The opposite of a great doctor
Unless you are rather young you have met a poor doctor once or twice in your life. Seldom do people return to these doctors. Here are some of the more common complaints about these doctors:
• Overly confident to the point of being disrespectful
• Terrible bedside manners
• Doesn’t care about me
• Cold and callous when asking questions and giving instructions
• Doesn’t explain so I can understand
• Doesn’t take the time to listen
• Uncaring and not understanding of my situation
• Hurried and is not thorough in evaluation
• Makes me feel like I am bothering
• Ignores me, takes phone calls or sends emails while I wait
• No clear plan, no clear explanation of the expected outcome
• Always have to sit and wait
• Never keeps the appointment time
• Charges a lot …For what?
• Won’t refill prescription – have to pay an office visit
• Too many tests and no conclusion
• Quickly pushes me off to a specialist
• Many billing mistakes
• Office staff is rude
It is sad that these doctors affect so many people. But it is even sadder that there are people who feel compelled to see them. You should never be patient with such doctors.
Changing the doctor is nothing to be afraid of. Your health takes priority.
There are many very good doctors that would be happy to welcome you. You may even find a great one.