Finding a Doctor

Although interviewing health care professionals is vital to the physician selection process, it should be one of the final steps. Before interviewing doctors, a woman should do most of her homework ahead of time in order to narrow her potential pool to just a few candidates. That way she can use the interview to gauge the manner and compatibility of her choices in order to settle on just one of them.

The Practitioners
Before the interview, a woman must first decide what sort of health care provider she wants to see. An OB/gyn will obviously offer basic gynecologic care, although she is more focused on surgery. Because of this, these doctors easily get behind in their appointments during office hours -- and those appointments have to be made rather far in advance. As a plus, OB/gyns can provide their patients with more experience and detailed knowledge of gynecological problems and their treatments. But, these doctors aren't the ones to see about treating common colds and such. This is the sort of doctor a woman is looking for if she is planning on having children. But it is necessary to check into whether or not a particular doctor handles deliveries, since not all OB/gyns do throughout their entire careers.

Nurse-midwives do basic routine gynecological care. They tend to offer more personalized care and attention for their patients. They practice under the supervision of a physician. They can obtain prescriptions for birth control pills or minor infections without a separate visit to the supervising physician. They will do routine, low-risk deliveries. For women who do have more significant gynecological problems or complicated pregnancies, nurse-midwives cannot offer advanced care.

On the other hand, an internist will be just the opposite of OB/gyns and nurse-midwives - great for most illnesses including chronic problems, but don't expect much if you have a question about irregular periods. Because these doctors are more focused on the internal organs, they will not be the best choice for minor injuries such as a cut, a sprained ankle, or getting something out of the eye.

A family practice doctor is a good choice for all around general health issues, and some even do deliveries to boot. The potential drawback here is that because these practitioners cover such a wide range of illnesses, they are not able to address more complicated gynecological or obstetrical problems in-depth.

And then there are also women's health specialists - their focus is pretty self-explanatory. Although these specialists do not offer obstetrical care, they provide detailed gynecological care. What makes these doctors especially beneficial is that their focus allows them to also address general illness and diseases, but with an emphasis on how those problems uniquely affect women. It's one-stop shopping for all a woman's primary care needs.

Where to Find Someone
No matter what sort of doctor a woman chooses to see, she may want to give extra consideration to a practitioner who is a member of either the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA), National Association of Professionals of Women's Health (NAPWH) or the American College of Women's Health Physicians (ACWHP). Not surprisingly, like women's health specialists, the members of these two organizations are sensitive to issues specific to women's health, and may give more consideration to diseases that affect greater numbers of women than men. This is a great place for a woman to begin her search - she should call the local chapters of these organizations for a list of member doctors. If she cannot find local listings, the national offices should be able to provide similar information.

Word of mouth is a great source of information. Ask friends and relatives who they see. There's nothing to match the experiences of a of another real live patient. Try to seek the recommendation of a woman who is similar to you in temperament, and philosophy on medical treatment.

What Else to Consider
After deciding on the type of doctor a woman is interested in, she can begin to narrow her search even more based on a few parameters. Possible things she may want to look for include the distance the doctor is from her home or office, what sort of insurance or health plans the doctor accepts, or what office hours the doctor keeps.

The Myths About Credentials and Doctor Referral Services
Some tout Board Certification as a criteria for selecting a doctor. Invariably, these are the people who run the board certifying organizations who wish to create a monopoly for their own. Board Certification is routinely granted to doctors who toe the line and jump through some administrative hoops and pay big bucks to these organizations, but are of questionable clinical competence. Formal studies have shown no difference in clinical outcomes based on board certification. For female patients there's an extra twist. Even today, physicians in training are denied this credential in retaliation for complaints about sexual harassment or discrimination in their own work situations, or for opposing sexist or abusive treatment of their female patients. So the doctors who are the strongest advocates on women's issues are the ones most likely not to have this credential.

Likewise, where the doctor went to school, what hospitals or universities she is affiliated tell you very little about the doctor's clinical quality, especially with respect to female patients. The people most interested in having you think that it matters are the people who have a financial interest in such institutions. Many of the powerhouses in women's health broke away from traditional medical institutions because they stifled innovations in women's health. But, some managed to pursue their goals within a more traditional framework.

Especially in light of how simple the initial search process is, most people are better off not using services that offer to do it for you. These services can be used either through 800 numbers or web sites, but they are often not independently run. Instead, various health care conglomerates or medical societies run these services and can skew the search results to promote their own doctors. If you do choose to use this option, be aware that you may not be getting the best results.

Okay, so now the initial research has been done, and the field has been narrowed to a few top picks. It is at this point that a woman should call her candidates and arrange appointments for interviews. Most likely, doctors will arrange the meetings as office visits. During the interview, the woman should get an actual feel for the doctor's presence and manner so that she can make her final decision confidently and knowledgeably.

Rate this article: (1=lowest, 5=highest) 1    2    3    4    5   

Copyright © 1999 GenneX Healthcare Technologies,Inc.


a listing of scientific articles and texts used.

ARCHIVE (complete)