Recently I had a less than wonderful visit to the OB/GYN (doctor of obstetrics and gynecology). I know what you’re thinking. Why would I expect that to be wonderful in any way? Well, I’ve done my fair share of pap smears so I knew what I was in for, but I had some objectives for the appointment that weren’t quite met. You see, my husband and I are thinking of starting a family in the next year or two and I wanted to get some things checked and get some questions answered prior to starting that journey. I wanted to ensure me and my future baby would be healthy. You know, I wanted to be responsible and plan a bit! But by the time I left the doctor’s office I felt like much of my concerns and questions had been dismissed or passed on to someone else to investigate further.
A family history that could potentially be genetic and life threatening especially when pregnant was passed on to someone else to figure out. A personal history of osteopenia was dismissed. I was told a prenatal vitamin would be necessary, but I would need to stop taking vitamin D and fish oil because I would be getting too much along with the prenatal. That might be true, but I never actual told the healthcare provider how much vitamin D or fish oil I take. I guess I should say my healthcare provider was nice and polite, and it wasn’t a terrible experience, but I wanted someone to talk to me and listen to my concerns and I don’t know, act like he or she cared a little bit?
As a health care provider myself, the appointment caught me off guard. I guess it shouldn’t since my former experiences with doctors who don’t seem to give a crap about their patients was one of the reasons I decided to become a nurse practitioner. I just couldn’t help but think that I wouldn’t have done the same thing if I had seen a patient with my same concerns. After I left the office, I promptly decided to find someone else to manage my care in the future.
You’d think because I’m in the medical field myself that I’d have known what to look for when choosing a provider, but I didn’t expect it to go this way, Now, after the fact, I can see where I went wrong in selecting who to see for my care. Knowing that you all care about your performance and your health, I thought you might have some of the same concerns as me. So I came up with a list pointers on how to find a health care provider who will listen to and address your concerns, respect your beliefs about nutrition and supplementation, and work with you to design a healthcare program that’s more well-rounded and focused on preventative health:
Note:I am not by any means trying to slam other, well-meaning healthcare providers. There are a lot of fantastic doctors, nurse practitioners, midwives, and physician’s assistants out there. Most of them are overworked, have schedules that demand they see too many patients in too little time, and they’re just doing the best they can to make sure they keep people as healthy as possible. This article is simply meant to help guide patients to find the HCPs out there who want to prevent disease, are open to alternative and integrative medicine, and who truly care about their patients health.
Here are my suggestions on how to find a good healthcare practitioner:
Tip #1: Look for Smaller Offices
Avoid large groups managed by hospitals or large companies. Larger offices are not as great for those of us who want to spend more time with our providers, who might want a provider open to alternative treatments, or who want a doctor who has an integrative approach. (Integrative medicine is the combination of alternative and traditional medical treatment.) These large groups often have more protocols and restrictions that they expect their providers to follow, and these often do not include alternative therapies. Larger offices also tend to require or expect their providers to see a certain amount of patients per day. Smaller, privately-owned clinics are going to be far more likely to be open to alternative therapies and they may be less restricted in terms of time they can spend with you per visit.
Tip #2: Ask If They Sell or Recommend Supplements?
Okay, this is a tricky one. Yes, there are some doctors out there selling a ton of unneeded supplements with the main goal being lining their wallets. However, there are many healthcare providers who realize the importance of high-quality supplements like vitamin D, omega 3, and probiotics. So, these doctors stock their preferred supplements in their office or recommend products they like. Do they make a profit from the products they sell? Probably. Is that a horrible crime? No. Conflict of interest? Maybe. However, if you are looking for a healthcare provider who believes in the importance of a healthy lifestyle and who won’t just offer you a medication for everything, the inclusion of supplements in their treatment protocols is a good sign.
Tip #3: Ask for Referrals
That may seem obvious, but I think in reality most people look to see who is covered by their insurance, then find who is closest to their home or office, schedule an appointment, and hope for the best. My recommendation would be to ask those people in your life whose opinion you value who they see for their health care. Ask your trainer, your coach, your yoga instructor, or your fellow gym-goer for their recommendations. Chances are they’ve shopped around a little and know some providers they trust and feel comfortable seeing.
Tip #4: Ask How Much Time Is Allotted Per Appointment?
If you find an office you think might work for you, call and ask how long they usually devote to each patient per visit. Generally, the longer the visits, the more thorough and attentive the provider will be. Also, you’ll have more time to voice concerns and ask questions. Oh, and one more thing, this also means the provider is going to be less harried, calmer, and just more pleasant and able to focus on your care.
Tip #5: Ask If They Offer Any Alternative Treatments?
Look at the clinic’s website before you call to schedule. Do they offer bio-identical hormone therapy? Acupuncture? Nutrition counseling? If they do, take that as a good indication that they are going to be far more likely to be supportive of holistic therapies and a healthy lifestyle.
This is definitely not a perfect guide. There are amazing healthcare providers to be found in every type of office. But, I think if you use the above tips you will be far more likely to find a provider who is willing to listen and work with you to design a healthcare plan that addresses your concerns and needs in a more holistic way.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.