Monday, June 14, 2010

Shop for Your Doctor,

Lorene Burkhart tells you what to do if you are Sick of Doctors. 

Let’s see a show of hands. How many of you have had good doctors?
Bad doctors?
Indifferent doctors?
Well, I’ve had all of them. The good ones are truly treasures. Depending on the ailment, I’ve discovered adjusting my bedside manner in partnering with a doctor always helps the outcome.
            One of my favorite doctors was the orthopedic surgeon who was matter of fact—like me. He told me that there were only three things he could do to help my rotary cuff problem in my shoulder. He could provide medication (steroid injection), information, or surgery. I loved his frankness. He was neither arrogant nor curt, but simply gave me the facts.
Some of my bad doctors were really bad – like an incorrect diagnosis. Instead of saying, “I don’t know,” the doctor decided to give me my problem a name – multiple sclerosis. Another one, an oral surgeon, insisted on multiple surgeries. I finally complained to the internist who had recommended him and an investigation was launched. He had a serious substance abuse problem and needed the surgery-procedure money to buy his drugs.
            The indifferent one was an internist – a new doctor to me. He appeared to be very bored, suggested that his assistant would give me instruction about some tests and I never heard from either of them again.
            Then there is the most dreaded one – Dr. God. Have you heard the joke “What’s the different between God and a doctor? God knows he isn’t a doctor!” How many of you know a Dr. God? Would this be a description? –Arrogant, bossy, know-it-all, impatient – well, you get the idea. In my latest book, Sick of Doctors? A Prescription for Patient Empowerment,  I describe situations that reveal the impact doctors with this type of personality have on everyone around them – co-workers, nurses, wives, peers.

            Regardless, the truth is we have choices. We’re the doctor’s customer. It’s up to us to shop for and choose our doctors. Create your medical team. The most important person on it is your general practitioner. Like all things consumer—start by asking friends and co-workers about their doctors. When you have a list of highly recommended doctors call and make an appointment for a “meet and greet.” You’ll have about 15 minutes so arrive ready to learn what you want to know.
Be prepared for this interview with a list of questions beginning with, “Tell me about yourself.” (It might be a good idea to tape it because you probably won’t remember all of it.) You should expect to learn about their schooling, attitude regarding off-office hour calls, number of years in practice and even references. Remember, you are the customer. Wouldn’t you do this if you were buying a service or product?
            If you decide you want to follow up with whatever procedure the doctor suggests for a new patient, make an appointment for an exam and conversation about your health.

During the interview consider this—People like people like themselves. As you talk think about the doctor’s style. Are they direct? Analytical and so on? Find a good fit to match your behavioral style. You’ll communicate better. We all know certain personalities just don’t mesh. It will be true in the relationship you have with your doctors.
            Also consider this… depending on the age of the doctor, they may have been taught to view the patient as an unreliable narrator? That means they’ll be skeptical. However studies exist with medical authors arguing for the patient-doctor relationship. A 1992 study has the authors saying the patient’s unique knowledge is just as important to outcome as the doctor’s scientific knowledge. The authors of the study say when this happens… the medical visit is truly a meeting of the experts.

Join us on the Sick of Doctors? Then Do Something About It! virtual tour. To learn more about the tour, visit You can also learn more about Lorene Burkhart and the book at If you would like to be a host on this tour, contact nikki @   

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