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How to Choose a Primary Care Doctor

What makes for a great doctor? How do you choose a primary care doctor who helps you improve your health? In this article, I’ll review the characteristics of an ideal doctor, someone I strive to be someday.

1. Listens & Communicates

Listening is empathy, and feeling heard is a beautiful experience. The kind of physician who can listen to you likely also communicates quite well. To feel heard, as patients, we need to know that the doctor asked us all the right questions and that they understand what we’re saying and perhaps what we’re not saying.

In the emergency setting, we just need a solid physician with great clinical skills to bring us back from the brink of death. In the primary care setting, the skills of an ideal doctor are more nuanced because we are trying to prevent a disease or make important health decisions now that will impact us decades down the line.

2. Empowers You

Patient empowerment is complicated because each person feels empowered in a different way. But when you are empowered, then you feel that you can make better health decisions for yourself.

A great primary care doctor is someone who does motivational interviewing and asks you about what’s most important to you. They identify your weaknesses and help you improve them over time.

My goal is to narrow the gap between my clinical knowledge and what my patients know; this makes decision-making far more effective.

3. Advocates For You

Most health decisions are simple, but they aren’t easy to execute. The right doctor for you is someone who can help you discover the traits necessary to make those habits changes.

Advocating for my patients means empowering them with knowledge and offering them resources they may not be aware of. If they need special treatment or need to figure out a way to afford a certain procedure, your doctor’s job is to help you get there.

4. Clinically Astute

Last but definitely not least, the perfect doctor is knowledgeable and has been honing their clinical skills over the past few decades. In this current healthcare model, prescribing another test and another medication – the shotgun approach, as it’s referred to – is outdated and dysfunctional.

A good primary care doctor is someone who can take all the research papers that are out there, all the clinical knowledge, and whittle it down to what’s most important to the patient sitting across from them.

Questions to Ask

Are they reading what I’m reading?

Your doctor should have similar content interests as you when it comes to your health. If your doctor is reading pharmaceutical ads while you’re learning about biohacking, your interest might be too divergent to be of value.

Are they asking good questions?

You don’t need a talk show host, but the kind of questions a physician asks is what sets them apart as a great doctor or just an average physician.

Are you chasing them down constantly?

A good patient-doctor relationship is 80%-20%, where the patient is 80% responsible for actions and decisions, but the doctor is 80% responsible for accountability and empowerment. You shouldn’t have to chase down your doctor.

Are they helping you feel responsible about your health?

Health responsibility isn’t the opposite of health blame. We can do everything right, but our anatomy and physiology may still let us down. Your ideal doctor is someone who helps you see the value in taking charge of your health because 9 out of 10 times, the outcomes are quite desirable.

Are you paying too much?

Primary care is cheap and disease prevention is even cheaper; that is, if you are engaged. Paying $1,000 a month for health insurance won’t change your health outcome – that’s just a service premium. If you are healthy paying to stay healthy is the best investment you can make in your health.

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