YOUR DOCTOR IS in a hurry. As always. So when she tells you she’s referring you to Dr. Good over at UCSF, it’s tempting to say thanks and get your clothes back on. After all, you are in a hurry too.
Not so fast.
Patient advocates, as well as families with too much experience navigating medical treatment, advise asking your
primary care physician for two to three specialist options,
and then going home to research those options before booking an appointment.
Jill is a mom who spent years seeking treatment for
her daughter’s multiple congenital issues and is now being
treated for breast cancer herself. It’s not that she doesn’t
trust primary care physicians (PCPs) to recommend good
specialists, but she rarely takes their word for it.
“Your doctor sees many patients and may not know
“This is important stuff,” Jill says.
what’s most important to you,” she says. Heading into a mas-
tectomy, some patients might be most concerned about the
doctor’s skill in minimizing scars, while others care more
about a doctor’s bedside manner or cutting-edge techniques.
Choosing a specialist is a multistep process — and if you
get to the last step and don’t feel right about your choice,
don’t hesitate to start over.
1 Ask questions before you leave the PCP office.
Ask your PCP why she chose the specialists she wants to
refer you to.
Then ask this question, recommends Kathy King, chief
If your doctor doesn’t recommend a specialist, or if you’re
executive officer of Marin Healthcare Navigation: “Who
would you go to? Whom would you send your mother, father,
“This usually elicits a genuine response,” King says.
dissatisfied with the ones she provides, search for names
through specialty-specific and disease-specific organiza-
tions, such as the ALS Foundation, King suggests.
Choose Well Six important tips to help you pick the right medical specialist. BY CARRIE KIRBY