OK – so I’m a bit late with this one – since it was posted on April 21st – but sometimes even an ‘old’ post is worth a comment or two.
Dr. Charles writes in his post Top doctors may not always be the best physicians –
Some of these doctors are excellent, but many are simply “notable.” They may be well-connected, in leadership positions, or presidents of this or that society. Many are excellent self-promoters, branding themselves through the name brand institutions they work for and the billboards that increasingly advertise their faces. Many are simply well-known or popular among their peers.
Well, he’s spot on with that one. Of topical interest perhaps in the legal arena is that unless the opposing lawyer isasleep, objections in a courtroom to the question – “Doctor, have you ever been listed in (fill-in the name of the local magazine that rates physicians) as a ‘Top Doctor’?” are universally sustained by the judge. Maybe judges understand better than the public that ‘Top Doctor’ status may not really be relevant to a physicians ‘expertise’ in a given subject area.
Before going any further, let it be said, however, that many times “Top Doctor(s)” are just that – they are some of the best in their given specialty or subspecialty. But how does the public know which ones are the entrepreneurial self-promoters and which ones are the real deal? I might suggest that if you read Dr. Charles’ piece that you not stop until you read the ‘Comments.’ Here’s just a sample:
This from a gentleman named Kevin Falchuk, who provides the disclaimer – “I think you make excellent points, and this is coming from me, the President of a company called Best Doctors. We’re responsible for creating some of these lists.”
With that said, Mr. Falchuk notes:
[T]he issue in medical care isn’t your doctor’s reputation. Instead, it’s the extent to which he or she is able to spend time with you, think about your problems, and render good advice.
Let me add a few other suggestions: While you are spending time with your doctor, if you are dealing with a life-threatening or potentially life-altering condition and not just the common cold, you may want to find out what his/her experience is in dealing with your condition. In the right situation ask – is a referral to a specialist advisable? Perhaps a second opinion? If a course of treatment is recommended, are their alternatives? What are the risks and benefits to each approach? Does the recommended treatment have any known and likely side-effects? Is there anything in your medical history that puts you at greater risk for known complications?
While it is never a good idea for a lay person to diagnose himself/herself, if you are recommended a course of treatment or a surgical procedure, perhaps you might consider educating yourself on what’s out there as far as information about the risks, benefits and alternatives of a procedure or treatment plan. If you do and you have questions, contact your physician and ask about your concerns. However, sage advice on this approach might be – “If you trust Google more than your doctor then maybe it’s time to switch doctors.” Jadelr and Cristina Cordova, Chasing Windmills, 08-21-06
I suspect that somewhere during the course of the informed consent discussion with your physician, you or a family member will get a pretty good sense of whether the physician with whom you are speaking is the person for you and truly is one of the Best Doctors for your condition and treatment.
There’s a lot of talk about the medical profession learning how to improve on patient satisfaction. Why should you care if others think your doctor is tops or the best in some magazine? While this may be a way to initially chose from the dozens of specialists in any given area, it should not be the end of the search. Choice of physicians – as with any group – yes, even lawyers – is there for you. Once you are in that physician’s office, only you can decide if he/she is the best doctor for you and you alone. Also – keep in mind that not all the best doctors (or lawyers, or candlestick makers) are listed in such publications. Whether your doctor is or is not is perhaps of no moment. I have always believed in a system that is based on common sense – be an educated patient, ask questions, listen to the answers and follow your brain and your heart. While it does not guarantee a great outcome, you will have at least done what you can do to make sure that – your doctor is the best doctor for you!