One of the most important things in my medical life is the team of providers I have assembled. I am very particular about those I have selected to help me navigate my condition. You should be too. These are the people who enable your life. Literally. I owe it to myself to invest at least as much time researching and interviewing medical providers as I do business partners or mechanics.
For me, the one attribute all my providers must have is the capacity to accept that they are not the only authority. We share that responsibility. My doctors consult each other, whether they are in the same office or not, and they welcome me as an equal partner and contributor. This may not be the right formula for everyone. For example, my father prefers for his doctor to remain THE AUTHORITY.
Either way, it is important to get what you need from your appointments, to feel like you leave with all of your questions answered and with the tools you need to flourish in the months in between.
The first step toward finding the right provider is to make a list of what you are looking for. Education and residency may be important to you, communication style, availability, or length of time the doctor has been practicing. Or recommendations from people you trust. Treat it as if it were a business interview. List your questions and have in mind an acceptable range of answers for each.
Second, decide your priorities. You may want to sort your providers into different categories. What I mean is, there are providers you see once a year and providers you see once a week. There are the ones to see for chronic conditions and the ones to see for more mundane issues. I choose to invest the most effort in finding those who will treat conditions that have the potential to cause the most physical damage. Oh, and my General Practitioner. You may feel like you see enough doctors, but an Internist or General Practitioner is also an important part of your team. Generally speaking they are a lot easier to schedule than specialists, who are usually booked solid months in advance. And you will need one, not just for those pesky, unavoidable events like getting the flu, but also to be a sort of ringleader, someone who gets all of your files from all of your providers, and can help you keep track of all the things that may fall through the cracks.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to shop around. Many people go to a doctor who isn’t a good fit and still return for the follow-up visit. This may be because they don’t have time to search for another doctor on their plan, or because they feel a kind of obligation to return, or any number of reasons. If your mother was anything like mine, she told you that you shouldn’t settle. If that advice is good for a date, it’s good for a doctor.
Good luck assembling your team!