The Maven: Finding the Right Health Care Provider
We’re finally figuring out that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and managing health is seen as a partnership between patient and provider. So it’s important to find the right medical expert to be your partner. Your health plan may give you a limited choice, but there are steps you can take to find the right high-quality physician, nurse practitioner, or advanced practice provider (APP) for you. Start with a list of providers from your health plan, then follow these steps:
1. Ask Google
Take online information with a grain of salt, and know that you may find something you don’t like: affiliations, non-medical misdeeds, photos, or even the contents of a provider’s Amazon wish list.
2. Check licenses
Any physician who attended an accredited medical school will have the medical doctor (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO) credential, but not every doctor has a valid license to practice medicine. In the US you can verify licenses online at each state’s professional regulation office. Start at docfinder.docboard.org. To verify APP licenses go to a state’s board of nursing or professional regulation website. Many countries—particularly those with socialized medicine—offer the same online resources.
3. Seek board certification
Board certification is not required to practice medicine. Certification is, however, a good indication that a provider has a solid command of his or her specialty and has kept up with advances in the field. Verify your provider at boardcertified.com.
4. Make the appointment
Are you satisfied with how the office handled your phone call and how quickly you’ll get to see the provider? If office processes make it difficult for you to access care then you will likely be frustrated no matter how phenomenal the physician is.
5. Advocate for yourself
Once you’re in the exam room together, it’s all about listening.
• Did your provider hear you? An accurate diagnosis depends upon communication, and no one knows your symptoms better than you. Keep talking until you have shared everything and feel you have been understood.
• Did you hear your provider? For example, if you hear a list of unfamiliar test names, your results, and “I’m going to refer you to a specialist,” but you have no idea why, say so. Keep asking questions until you are sure you understand the treatment plan. If the plan is, “Let’s wait and see,” be sure you understand why that’s the best approach.
If this two-way communication is not comfortable after a few visits, maybe you haven’t found a good fit. Go back and start the process again. Your health may depend on it.
—By Nadene Tabari Bradburn ’94
Nadene Tabari Bradburn ’94 is president of Blackwell Healthcare Recruiting Inc. (BHR), a consulting firm that recruits physicians for clients in medically underserved areas. In 1997 the discovery of an aneurysm near her brain stem exposed Bradburn to a continuum of care, from emergency rooms to surgery to inpatient rehabilitation. She succeeded in getting her HMO to cover 100 percent of the cost, and the ordeal defined her career path. She holds a master’s in health administration and is a fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives. After many years working in management at physician practices and in hospitals, in 2012 she incorporated BHR, named after America’s first female doctor, Elizabeth Blackwell.
This article appeared in the fall 2015 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.
October 15, 2015