How do you choose a doctor? Some people want a doctor who has years of practice under their belt. Some choose a medical professional based on word of mouth. If you make your choice based on gender, you could be doing yourself a great favor or, if studies are to be believed, a disservice. According to a new study released by Harvard researchers, elderly patients cared for by female doctors tend to have better outcomes. In fact, the study claims that it may even be a matter of life or death.
This is not the first time that female doctors have proven more effective than their male counterparts. In past studies, it has been shown that female doctors may be more likely to follow recommendations set forth regarding preventative care, including counseling and lab tests. The newest study estimates that 32,000 fewer patients would die if the male doctors they chose were able to achieve the same outcome as female doctors.
Ashish Jha, one of the study’s co-authors, said, “Women physicians are more likely to do evidence-based medicine, and follow clinical guidelines. They are more likely to communicate in a way patients report is more effective.” Jha went on to say, with regards to the pay received by female physicians, “The people who seem to provide somewhat better care are the ones who are getting paid less. I think that makes very little sense.”
Not all medical professionals are buying into what the study is selling. Female doctors may be better communicators, but it does not necessarily mean they are better doctors, as a group. While patients should certainly choose a doctor they feel comfortable with, that decision should not be made based on gender alone. Here are some guidelines for choosing a primary care physician.
1. Insurance Restrictions
The first thing to look at are any restrictions set forth by your insurance company. Many will limit the number of doctors you are able to choose from if you want your insurance to foot the bill. Take a look at the list of physicians your insurance company allows you to choose from and go from there.
2. Hospital Affiliation
As we age, our chances of needing more extensive care are greater. After you have checked your insurance, look to see which doctors are affiliated with your choice of hospital. It doesn’t make sense to choose a doctor who is affiliated with a hospital in the next city when your hospital of choice is right down the road.
3. Board Certification
You can check Certification Matters to find out if the doctors you are considering are board certified. Being board certified means that the doctor graduated from an accredited medical school and then completed a residency of three to seven years. It also means that the doctor passed one or more exams administered by the American Board of Medical Specialties and participated in continuing education in order to maintain their certification.
4. Red Flags
Perform a Google search for the state medical board where you live. You will be able to determine if the doctors you are considering have had any valid complaints filed against them or been disciplined in any way. Being accused of medical malpractice once or twice is something that many doctors face, but several lawsuits should cause you to continue your search.
You are putting your health in a stranger’s hands. You should feel comfortable with the doctor and confident that they are communicating with you effectively. Use a first visit as a sort of test. If you don’t feel completely at ease with the doctor, find another. It is incredibly important that you trust the professional with whom you are entrusting your health.
6. The Staff
The person checking you in and out won’t be completing your exam, but they should be friendly and approachable. Keep a close eye on the staff of the office when you are in the waiting room. Do they appear to be working effectively? Are they helping people as they walk in and out? You should expect to be treated respectfully and in a timely manner.
Many doctors are switching over to electronic health records if they haven’t done so already. Look for a doctor that utilizes this technology in their practice. It makes keeping track of your health records easier. If your doctor utilizes a patient portal, you will have access to your own records around the clock. It also makes it easier to share your information should you be seen by another medical professional.
Choosing a doctor should be done with care in order to avoid mistakes. If you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice in New York, reach out to our office. We will help you schedule an appointment for a free case evaluation and advise you of your options.