Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Choosing a Physician

An important factor in getting properly diagnosed involves not only the quality of your physician but the relationship that you have with her or him. Here are some warning flags:

1) Your physician doesn’t listen well, immediately discounts your concerns, or only focuses on a narrow area of your health and/or your body.

2) Your physician is not inclined to take the time to explain to you the particularities of what s/he feels is your medical condition. This reluctance is not infrequently explained by the claim that these matters are “technical.”

3) Rigid thinking, arrogance or excessive self-assuredness are very bad signs. If your physician seems to see everything in black and white, will not question his or her own opinions or the results of the tests he orders, look for someone else. Every physician should welcome a second opinion.

4) If your physician does make a mistake, s/he should be willing to admit it. In his book Second Opinions, Jerome Groopman writes: “… most litigation grows not out of honest errors or even frank malpractice but from unresolved anger and poor communication. Physicians are not used to admitting when they are wrong and plainly stating to the patient and family that an error was made, a lab test overlooked, a finding missed on a physical exam, or an incorrect drug prescribed” (p.89). This is corroborated by work done by Albert Wu, and published in the Journal of Internal Medicine in 1997. Wu summarizes that article as follows: “We came down very strongly with the position that physicians are obligated to disclose errors that harm patients to patients and/or their families, largely because the patient stands to benefit from it. While there are potentially some risks or downsides for the physician, the doctor-patient relationship can also, paradoxically, improve sometimes with these discussions.”