Tips for Finding Providers Who Can Help You
Tips for Finding Providers Who Can Help You by Barby Ingle
Finding a highly qualified, competent, and compassionate physician to manage your specific illness or condition takes a lot of hard work and energy, but it is an investment that is well worth the effort. I have met over 90 healthcare providers, including hospital staff, neurologists, cardiologists, psychologists, X-ray technicians, pain management, general practice, orthopedic and the list goes on. It is important to keep in mind that you are not looking for just any general physician but rather a physician who has expertise in the treatment and management of your specific illness or condition. Find out if the doctor knows about CHRONIC PAIN in-depth. Sometimes a pain doctor will know more about arthritis then neuropathy pain because of the types of classes taken in medical school and previous patients. It does not make him or her a bad doctor, just not necessarily the right one for you.
It has generally been assumed by many people that the longer a physician has been in practice, the more experience, knowledge, and skills they have accumulated and, therefore, the higher the quality of care they provide to their patients. Recent research conducted by a group of doctors from the Harvard Medical School, however, seems to strongly suggest that this premise may not be true. In an article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the Harvard researchers seriously challenged the common assumption that the more clinical experience a physician has accumulated, the higher the level of medical care they provide to their patients.
In fact, surprisingly, the researchers found an inverse (opposite) relationship between the number of years that a physician has been in practice (i.e., experience) and the quality of care that the physician provides. In other words, the widely held belief that “practice makes perfect” does not necessarily apply to all physicians and should not be the sole criteria used by patients in their decision analysis for choosing a physician. The underlying message of this study is that the length of time a physician has been in practice does not necessarily equate to a high quality of medical care unless the doctor takes steps to keep abreast with new advances and changing patterns of clinical practice.
There are some important issues you need to consider and carefully research before making an informed decision about choosing your doctor. Find out whether they are board certified, medical school affiliations, hospital associations, and the hospital’s accreditation. Board certified means that the doctor is required to have extra training after medical school to become a specialist in a particular field of medicine and are required to take continuing education courses in order to maintain their board certification status. You can check to see if a doctor is board certified in each state through the medical board of your state. In Arizona, it is easy to check because they have an online site. You can also check with the American Board of Medical Specialists (ABMS) to determine if a specific physician you are considering is board certified in a particular medical specialty. Next, find out if the doctor you are considering also has a joint faculty appointment at a medical school. In general, practicing community physicians with a joint academic appointment at a medical school are more likely to be in contact with leading medical experts and may be more up-to-date with the latest advances in research and treatments than community-based physicians who are not affiliated with a medical school.
Then, research to find out about the hospitals that the doctor uses. In the event that you need to be treated at a hospital, is the hospital where the physician has admitting privileges near your home or will you (and your family members) have to travel a considerable distance? It is also a good idea to find out if the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) accredits the hospital where the physician has admitting privileges. You can find information about a specific hospital’s accreditation status by searching the JCAHO Internet site.
The JCAHO is an independent, not-for-profit organization that evaluates and accredits more than 15,000 healthcare organizations and programs in the United States. To receive and maintain JCAHO accreditation, a healthcare organization must undergo an on-site survey by a JCAHO survey team at least every three years and meet specific standards and performance measurements that affect the safety and quality of patient care. Finally, as noted above, remember that how long a physician has been in practice (i.e., experience) does not necessarily correlate with a high level of medical expertise you will need with CHRONIC PAIN.
 Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol 142.4. 260-303
 Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)