Everyone wishes to have the best doctor available. In Minnesota there are multiple rating services available that score doctors, however, which rating systems are the best? Some services rate doctors on their compliance to medical guidelines such as those established for asthma and diabetes. Other services monitor the cost of a physician’s per patient billing to the insurance company, while others are patient reviews. The real question is, what will make you happy with your choice of physician?
Important qualities in a doctor includes their knowledge, skill, understanding of a patient’s condition and their communication skills. Almost every physician will have a good basic set of knowledge about any medical condition that they treat. In any profession, from car mechanics to teachers, 90 percent of the practitioners are good and 10 percent are exceptional and have a special talent in that field. Skill level is similar; most physicians have good techniques, but some just know the small things that make all the difference when doing any procedure, and are just better than others.
Understanding a patient’s condition is somewhat complex. First, a doctor must be prepared. This includes reviewing a patient’s medical record and knowing their history. This is ongoing, and the doc should know this information at each visit. Medical records are helpful, but personal notes may be needed in addition to fill gaps. Experience is also important, as is continuing to grow in their skill by attending conferences and seminars on a regular basis.
Communication between the doctor and patient is critical in quality of care. Most important is that communication is not one directional. To treat a patient, a doctor needs to know what is wrong, what are the symptoms, and what is actually working correctly. Since doctors often have limited time with each patient, they will need to guide the conversation to obtain the relevant information. Being honest is also extremely important. There are often multiple sources to confirm data, and if the information provided is not truthful, a doctor will likely be guarded in their care. Patients also need to ask questions about their condition and be open about their recovery.
Ratings of doctors are of limited value. The final rating that matters is how well you communicate with your doctor and whether or not you trust his ability and knowledge. Sometimes, you can find the right physician without any trouble. Other times, word of mouth and information from friends who know the practitioner is critical. Ratings on the web may be inaccurate or forums for the unhappy patient. No physician will be perfect, but finding the right physician may be a matter of how well both you and the physician communicate with each other.
Thomas Cohn, MD
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