Tips for the best doctor appointment

Finding the right doctor:

I use technology to find a good restaurant, barber, or table saw. Finding a doctor really isn’t that easy. The technology has not caught up to the need. There are websites that rate doctors and include reviews from patients, but I am skeptical. The reviews don’t verify that you actually saw the doctor, so anyone could post anything. Often doctors only have a few ratings, so a couple 5-star ratings can go a long way. I find it odd that the doctors with the most reviews are often cosmetic/plastic surgeons.

I generally look for doctors the old fashioned way: word of mouth. I ask around until I narrow it down to a few doctors and then I use technology to help me out. I also utilize my insurance company to make sure I do not waste time with doctors who do not accept my insurance.

Tools to help find a great doctor:

  1.  US News Find a Doctor: I use this tool to search for a doctor by specialty, or name. You can see years of experience, where the doctor went to school, hospital affiliations and certifications.
  2. Dollars for Docs: I use this tool to see how much money a doctor has accepted from drug companies. Doctors who accept a lot of money may be biased in their prescribing. You can see the type of payment as well. This includes lunches, travel, promotional speaking and more. Some doctors accepted payments in the multi-millions in 2016. You can also use the government website to see how much doctors have received. This has less detail, but it is more current “https://openpaymentsdata.cms.gov/

Questions to ask about medications:

People who develop a good relationship with their doctor trust the doctor’s judgement. This is great, but it also helps to be informed about your care.

  1. Can you review what to expect and the side effects? I would never take a medication without being aware of the side effects. For example, I would hesitate to take a medication that can cause headaches if I struggle to treat my migraines. Also, ask what to do if you experience a side effect.
  2. Are there ways to treat this without medication? Many disease states can be improved without the use of medications. I would always see if these are an option before starting a prescription. For example there are many non-pharmacological treatments for insomnia. I would try all of these first before trying a hypnotic medication.
  3. Is this treatment “first line”? First line means the usually starting treatment. This usually means it is the most studied, most effective or the safest treatment. If the medication is second or third line, I would want to know why the first line medications were not chosen.
  4. How expensive is this medication? There is no shame in asking this question. Some medications are far too expensive. A great tool to use here is “https://www.goodrx.com/“. This website shows you the cash price of a medication, provides coupons for medications, and compares prices at different stores.
  5. Does this medication require a “prior authorization”? Insurance companies provide additional steps to obtain expensive medication in the United States. If your doctor says that the medication usually does require a prior authorization, then you may want to call the pharmacy to see when your prescription is ready. This can save you a wasted trip to the pharmacy. Prior authorizations can take a few days and sometimes the insurance company denies the request.

Conclusion:

Finding a doctor and understanding medications are tough in an ever-changing medical landscape. These tools can be helpful in finding a doctor, seeing if the doctor works closely with pharmaceutical companies and saving money on medications.

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Hidden lookout, Pittsburgh
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