Monday, November 8, 2010

“How did you find your doctors?”

That is a question I’ve been asked before.  A quick answer would be that - “I got really lucky.”  Further thought would reveal that not much of anything is pure luck, but that circumstances do have a lot to do with choices and outcomes.

First priority upon moving to the DC area back in 1998 was to find an opthalmologist.  Since the age of 4, I had the same eye doctors.  I literally grew up with this “eye family” and witnessed several additions to the office, but only one retirement in 30 years.  How my parents chose these doctors, I’m not sure. 

So where did I turn to try to find a new eye doctor in a different state?  I asked my current opthalmologist for a recommendation.  He knew of a classmate/colleague from Indiana University Eye Institute days who practiced in the area.  So that’s who I chose.

In the past ten years, a younger optometrist joined the practice and eventually the recommended doctor retired.  The younger doctor and his wife (who also happens to be an optometrist) bought the practice, so now they are my eye doctors.  Early on, the younger doctor has worked hard to learn more about MS and eyes which made me like him more.  However, recently I do think I might be better off with an actual opthalmologist, especially since the eyes continue to be a concern.

After obtaining health insurance in 2000, (yes I had a gap of about a year between student insurance through college and individual insurance obtained on my own), the next priority was to find a good internist or general practitioner.  My mother loves things like Consumer Reports for conducting research.  Each year the Washingtonian magazine publishes a listing of the top doctors in the area, as recommended by other doctors.

I cross-referenced the Washingtonian list with my insurance preferred provider list and looked for someone close by.  During our “get acquainted” appointment, I explained my previous experience with optic neuritis and jumped into my prediction of needing to come back in about 2 months to get my yearly anti-depressant prescription to combat what I still tried to think of as Seasonal Affective Disorder.  He went ahead and wrote a prescription on the spot, but probably wanted to get my health records from the college Medical Center.

How much jumping into my experience with depression right from the start may have affected how he viewed my reporting of symptoms, I don’t know.   In fact, I hadn’t even thought about there being a connection until just right now as I’m writing this. 

This was the primary care doctor who missed early flares of rheumatoid arthritis because my blood is negative for rheumatoid factor and my joints weren’t visibly red, hot or swollen at the time.  I just knew that something wasn’t right.  I went home to try to self-treat with a variety of OTC creams to take away the pain and stiffness.

This is also the doctor who missed a growing case of pneumonia one Friday when I finally went in.  It was probably the answer to one question which caused him to send me home, telling me that I was over the worse of the virus infection I had.  I had felt marginally better on that Friday than the previous day.  And, he thought my lungs sounded clear.  I was in the ER on Sunday unable to lay back due to the crude which was filling up my lungs.  Trust me, pneumonia really sucks.

Sometime after that a young doctor joined the practice and patients were asked if they were willing to see her.  I was fine with it and would see either doctor interchangeably over a year or so.  This younger doctor is now my primary care doctor and I couldn’t be happier.  She listens to me, works with me, and takes me seriously.  I like her.

Even before I went to have an MRI done, my primary care doctor printed out a list of local neurologists just in case I needed them in the future.  When she called me the morning after my MRI scans, she wanted me to pick one of the doctors and make an appointment soon. 

Again, I cross-referenced this list with my insurance company’s list.  Each doctor/office was a preferred provider.  Now this is where luck came in.  I called the offices to make an appointment.  I went with the neurology office who could get me in the quickest.  After my initially-assigned neurologist diagnosed MS, I was able to switch over the the MS specialist at the same center. 

I lucked out and have a great neurology team of doctors and nurses.  I wish that others could be so fortunate.

During the time that it seemed something really was going on my with my hands and body, I wondered aloud if I shouldn’t consult a rheumatologist.  My mother had found an excellent doctor (listed in the Washingtonian magazine, of course) and she asked if new patients were being taken.  The answer was NO.

When a hand surgeon wanted to refer me to rheumatologist, he asked where I live.  Great! He says.  A wonderful doctor is in your neighborhood.  This happened to be my mother’s doctor.  This time when asked, I got an appointment.  Actually the hand surgeon said that if I had difficulty to call his office and he would call the doctor personally to get me in.

I have a great rheumatologist who I wouldn’t trade.

Doctor Shopping:
Each time I needed a new doctor, I did ask for a recommendation from a trusted doctor or referred to a listing of top doctors in the area.  I didn’t go online and research these doctors.  I didn’t consult doctor rating sites.  I didn’t even ask friends for advice.

But, somehow, I ended up with great doctors who put me at the center of care.  My neurologist and rheumatologist send updates to each other and my primary care doctor after each visit.  Everybody is “in the loop.”  These guys have my back for which I am extraordinarily thankful.

By the way, I just now looked up my doctors in HealthGrades.  They are rated at 4-4.5 stars.  It is only the questions related to office environment or office friendliness which got lower scores.  For one office I understand, simply based on where the office is now located.  Definitely not fancy by any means.  And when I have a real need, I can get an appointment same-day or next-day for two of my doctors.

I’m truly fortunate.

How about you, how did you find your doctors?


  1. Wow, had to think. We lived blocks from a hospital/drs., so in the beginning I went there. Then as I became more savvy, I begged, researched, trial and error in a big city with medical teaching university, MANY doctors, hit and miss, still looking. Been through at least 10 dentists. (One the FBI is still looking for!) I feel for people in rural areas and small towns. I know I am lucky.

  2. We are blessed with good doctors and hospitals. Actually,we chose the hospital then found doctors who belong to them. It is very hard finding doctors who take new Medicare patients. And of course, we are now having to decide on which Medicare insurance program we want for 2011.

  3. I'm still having trouble finding doctors. My current Neuro is a lifeless robot void of any compassion or personality, trying to find the nearest ms specialist. I can't find a general practitioner that accepts medicaid. I can't even find a competent phramacy!

  4. After moving to this state in 96, and needing a dr, I asked some friends who their doctor was, and if they liked them... I started seeing a dr at the practice and really liked her. She left the area, and I was shifted to another new dr, and hated her (ok maybe hate is a strong word, but our personalities really CLASHED!!) I then searched for another dr, asked again for some recomendations (at this point I still had not be diagnosed with anything any more major than a cold or flu, so did not see a dr that often), and compared the recommendations with the list my insurance covered, and called around, and found many practices did not take new patients (bummer), and also found out that my ppo/hmo insurance would take at least 60 days to transfer from one dr to another, and when asked what should I do if I needed to see a dr, I was told, go to the ER. So, I ended up doing nothing and staying at the practice I started at. Next time I did make an appointment, the dr I was assigned that I didn't like was unavailable, and there was another new dr, so I switched again, and this time couldn't be happier. She is very willing to help me find the appropriate specialists, and works with me to help handle all my various issues. I have found everything (healthwise) started going downhill at 40. Since that timeframe, I have discovered I have osteo-arthritis in both knees. I need a knee replacement in my left, which I will probably try to schedule next year, I have been diagnosed with MS, I had to have a hysterectomy due to fibroid cysts (actually, I couldn't be happier now without that monthly visit), I also had a breast reduction - this was partially an elective surgery however, my dr helped me find a specialist that helped me document why it was a medical benefit, and I couldn't be happier with that result either! I had to have my left thyroid removed due to large nodules, and lets see, I am borderline diabetic but have that under control by diet and excercise. My neurologist and the osteo both were referrals, I couldn't be happier with either.
    My eye dr was a client of the computer firm I used to work for, so I got to know a couple eye places, and picked one from that first hand knowledge. I'm very happy with my eye dr, he was able to catch an treat several bouts with iritis, which was no fun, and even called in a prescription for me to another state's pharmacy when I had an outbreak during a business trip.
    So I too think I lucked into a good group of dr's.