Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

I was talking to a patient and she was recounting her unhappy experiences at an IVF clinic. She was complaining that the procedures were opaque; information was not provided; and she had to endure needless long waits. These are common complaints, so when I asked her why she didn't leave and find a better clinic, she explained that she was "locked in" because she had paid in advance. She was therefore committed to going through with the entire treatment cycle with them, even though she was very unhappy.

We have found this is surprisingly common. Doctors are very charming and courteous at the first visit; but when you've parted with your money, they reveal their true colours.

Patients are emotionally very vulnerable, and perceive themselves as being helpless and powerless. When a doctor with a good reputation then turns on his charm and subjects you to a high powered sales pitch, it's very hard to resist. However, once you are lured in, it's impossible to get out !

There is a simple strategy you can use for finding the best doctor. Make a short list of at least 3 doctors ( remember that on one has a monopoly - there are always options !); and then interview all of them. Tell them upfront that you are seeking a second opinion, and ask them to explain why they feel they are better than the others. This way, you'll learn a lot, including , what the strong and weak points of each doctor are, and what questions to ask ( after all, who can educate you better about a doctor's shortcomings than another doctor ? )

Also, the fact that you have options will empower you, so you no longer think of yourself as being helpless. Of course, you may still end up making the wrong choice , but at least you'll have peace of mind you did your best !

Actually, this is simple common sense - we routinely do it before buying a TV or a car, so why don't we do it for choosing a doctor ?

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