HERE are a few practical tips you may want to consider when selecting a specialist to take care of your serious health problem:
Qualification, qualification, qualification! (In paraphrasing the famous “location, location, location!” used in selecting real estate.) A nurse, nurse practitioner (NP) and physician assistant (PA) are considered "physician-extenders." They are not physicians. You may want to be very clear as to what kind of qualifications and titles this so-called “specialist” has. While nurses and nurse practitioners are great working under the direct supervision of a doctor, they are not qualified to give independent opinions and advise you regarding your diagnosis, your care, the appropriateness of it, or the directions your care should take. If a nurse or physician extender is talking to you in these terms, this is called “practicing outside of the scope,” and adverse events may happen as they are not qualified.
Find a respectful communicator
Regardless of the type of practitioner you need, you'll want to be sure you can communicate effectively, in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Many patients complain they can't understand their doctors' use of "medspeak," or that they don't feel as if their providers listen to them, or give them enough time. Sometimes those problems are due to a disregard for the needs of the patient. Other times there are good explanations. Respectful communication requires understanding on the parts of both doctors and patients to get beyond those hurdles.
Find a practitioner who works with your insurance
This step gets more difficult as time goes on. The nature of health insurance means relationships change over time. Doctors who accepted insurance from Company A this year may work only with Company B next year.
Make sure Dr. Right is the right type of specialist
Patients are surprised to learn that seeing the wrong type of specialist, someone who focuses on only one body system, can stand in the way of accurate diagnosing, and therefore correct treatment. Work closely with your primary care physician to be sure you're being referred to the right type of specialists.
Dr. Right's credential are important
Where did your doctor go to medical school? Did he specialize in the medical service you need? Where did he complete his fellowship program? Is she board certified? Has she completed continuing education coursework? Is he licensed in your state? Does he stay current with publications and research in his field of specialty? Is she affiliated with any organizations that speak to her area of medicine?
Doing a background check into your doctor's credentials is important to be sure they are appropriate and current.
Dr. Right's track record is important
The amount and level of experience your new doctor has can be vitally important, especially if you have a difficult-to-diagnose medical problem, or one that requires a difficult treatment. You'll also want to know that the doctor has a successful and clean record.
Like doing a background check on your doctors' schooling and certification, you'll want to research your doctor's track record to be sure your doctor has a clean record, free of malpractice or other problems.
Ask if your specialist can attend to you if you are admitted at your local hospital.
If you think you may need to be hospitalized at some point now, or in the future, make sure your selected specialist is able to practice in the hospital where you will be.
Just like choosing gender, you may consider a doctor's native language or culture in your choice. When it comes to something as personal as medical care, you need to be able to communicate well, and language barriers, in particular, can get in the way. Culture can also affect bedside manner and sometimes is not translated as it is intended.
When it comes time to choosing the right doctor for you, you'll need to account for the entire team that will deliver your care. The doctor leads that team, so your assessment of him or her will be most important. But you can get clues to the doctor's ability to care for you based on your experience with others who work for him or her. Use that information to help you make your choice, too.
If you have questions, please refer back to your primary care physician. He or she has your best interest in mind.