Most patients go to a physician because that’s the doctor that the family has been seeing for many years. If you are new in town, how do you pick a doctor? If your quick answer is the yellow pages then beware. Anyone, for a few dollars, can advertise in the Yellow Pages and they can claim that they are specialists. Anyone, after only one year of internship and without residency training can claim that they are specialists in any field; For example, Sport Medicine Specialist, cardiologist, or plastic surgeon. The Yellow Pages are only interested in placing an ad for a handsome fee.
Patients need to understand that one doctor will not be able to care for all of their ailments. Although this may be true in third world countries or in remote small towns, most patients in the US demand highly specialized and focused medical care. This requires a coordinated team approach. Primary Care physicians (internists, family practitioners and pediatricians) usually care for most medical problems such as colds, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes and preventive medical care.
If certain medical problems arise that need specialized care, then the primary care physician will refer to a specialist such as an Orthopedic Surgeon, General Surgeon, Cardiologist, Obstetrician, Neurosurgeon, Neurologist, etc. Other specialists are also part of the team such Emergency Room Physicians, Pathologists, Radiologists and Anesthesiologists.
Patients can directly refer themselves to a specialist if they are in Preferred Provider Plan (PPO). If you signed on to a Health Maintenance Organization Plan (HMO), then you can only see a specialist if your Primary Care Physician approves it.
Before making an appointment with a physician you have not met yet, you need to do a lot of research. In the past years, your only source of information was from family and friends. Today’s patients are much more sophisticated and have the internet to thank for the abundance of information. It is estimated that this year, over 30 million people will research medical information from the internet. This number is expected to continue to increase. Patients can now research general information about the doctor at several sites such as the Physician Finder in the American Medical Association (AMA) www.ama-assn.org.
If you are looking for information about an Orthopedic Surgeon, go to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) www.aaos.org. For example, to see Dr Tony Jabbour’s site that was provided by the AAOS, go to www.orthodoc.aaos.org.
There are over 2500 health sites on the internet. Not all sites are helpful and many are just ads. Here are some user-friendly sites www.healthfinder.com , www.webmd.com , www.healthwatch.com , and www.medscape.com.
Physicians are also becoming more sophisticated in providing information to their patients. Many physicians are building websites that provide specific medical brochures and information about surgical procedures. For example, before and after patients visit me at my Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Clinic, they can access a wealth of information on my website www.drjabbour.com.
Here are other helpful internet sites www.cancer.org, www.americanheart.org, www.diabetes.org, www.curearthritis.org, www.mentalhealth.org, www.4women.org, www.familydoctor.org, and www.yoursurgery.com.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor:
Did she/he graduate from an accredited medical school?
Where did she/he do their internship and residency?
- If your doctor claims to be a specialist in a certain field, did he do a fellowship and research?
- If a surgical procedure is to be performed, ask how many has your surgeon performed and if he feels comfortable with performing the procedure?
- Is your doctor Board Certified? (Board Certification in a specialty signifies the highest level of education and training.)
I hope this article will empower you with information that you can use when looking for a doctor or when discussing treatment options with your physician.
Dr. Tony Jabbour is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon with fellowship training in Sports Medicine.