Friday, November 23, 2012

How to keep your doctor honest

If you have a good doctor , you can be quite confident that you will get good medical care. However, the problem is that you don't know whether or not your doctor is competent. All of us believe that our personal doctor is capable – after all, this is one of the reasons why you selected that particular doctor !

Unfortunately , it can be very hard for a patient to judge a doctor’s clinical skills, since patients do not have the ability to measure a doctor’s technical abilities .This is why patients are often forced to use surrogate markers when selecting a doctor . They will use a recommendation from a family member or a friend or another doctor as a proxy marker for the doctor’s competence. Others have to judge by intangibles , such as the doctors bedside manner ; his clinic ambience ; his professional reputation ; or articles about him in the newspaper. Unfortunately, none of these are very reliable methods for determining how good your doctor is.

Patients need to invest more time and energy in order to make sure that they're getting the best possible medical care from a good doctor . One way of doing this is to do your homework and use Information Therapy so that you can judge what the most important criterion of technical competence is for the particular treatment which you are taking. While this may seem to be a daunting task , it is actually quite simple , because technology has improved so much . To give you an example , if you're going to an IVF clinic , you should insist on seeing photographs of your embryos , because this is the one tangible end point which a good IVF clinic can provide . Good IVF clinics are proud of the fact that they create good embryos and are happy to share this with their patients to document their clinical proficiency . If your doctors are reluctant to give you photos of your embryos, this is a red flag which should cause you concern.

Similarly, if you need to choose an endoscopy surgeon to do an operative laparoscopy for you, it is important that you ask your surgeon whether he will provide you with video documentation of the surgery, because this provides tangible evidence that the surgery was performed competently and efficiently. Thanks to advances in medical technology, it is now possible for most doctors to provide visual documentation of every procedure . A simple typewritten report is no longer enough . It’s important to find out before the procedure what the key visual documentation for the procedure is, and to confirm with your doctor whether he will do this for you before you sign up for the procedure . Good doctors are happy to share information with patients and document their clinical skills. If your doctor is reluctant to do so , this should cause concern.

How can you find out what the key visual documentation for your particular procedure is ? An easy way is to get a second opinion from an expert ! He will be able to tell you what the basic standards are. If your doctor cannot meet them, this is cause for concern !

Will your doctor take offense if you ask for this ? A good doctor should not , because he understands the value of good documentation, and provides this to his patients routinely and proactively !

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