How do doctors choose their doctors?

One of the most difficult and important decisions individuals make is whom to choose as their doctor. Physicians are our partners in safeguarding our most precious asset: our health. But how to choose? What qualities should we seek in our doctor? Should we go by word of mouth? Do we choose the doctor with the nicest website…the best yelp reviews? What if we are in an HMO plan and can’t choose who to go to?

There is no one formula which works for everyone in choosing their doctor, but as a physician, I can tell you what matters to me when choosing a doctor for myself or a loved one. First and foremost, if I already have one doctor who I trust and need to see a doctor of a different specialty, I will ask that doctor for some recommendations; presumably he or she will have the inside track on who is good at what procedure and will have my best interests in mind in sending me to a trusted colleague. Another resource I find useful is word of mouth. If I have a friend who has had a good experience with a particular physician, I will give some weight to his/her counsel.

The very first resource people tend to look at in looking for a doctor is the internet. My personal view is that caution needs to be exercised when using the internet, and this is for several reasons. Unfortunately, yelp reviews are used to rate doctors like consumer goods, leading patients to make bad decisions. I know of several excellent physicians who receive negative yelp reviews because patients disgruntled by bills or issues unrelated substantively to the doctor themselves post these negative reviews. Conversely, some physicians with excellent yelp reviews have public relation firms which arrange only the best reviews to be posted.

Websites can be useful, but only insofar as they describe the doctor’s credentials. Many doctor websites are full of fluff, artificially inflating doctors to captains of industry. I personally want my doctor to be passionate and focused about whatever physician specialty they are in. Unless a person is Elon Musk, it is highly unlikely they are leaders in more than one area of expertise. I want my physician/surgeon to be just that and full time…not a renaissance person who is a part-time inventor, part-time CEO, part-time race-car driver/pizza-kitchen owner.

David Paikal, MD

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