Do you like your family practitioner?” my sister asked a few weeks ago. “Would you recommend him?””Absolutely! I adore my doctor-he’s great!” I answered immediately, and then I started a long, emphatic testimonial, as if I were my doctor’s publicity manager. During my monologue, I used words like “smart,” “logical,” “listens,” and “respectful.” Afterwards, I realized I had not uttered the words “qualified” or “well-trained”-not even once.The conversation with my sister made me ponder the factors and characteristics that set the great doctors apart from the good ones. Websites rating and ranking doctors crowd the Internet. On these lists, medical professionals earn the title of “Top Docs” based on surveys filled out by their medical peers. And so I posed questions to a panel of six doctors, nurses, and health care professionals. I asked: What do you look for when considering a doctor to oversee the care of your own family? In your opinion, what qualities do the very best doctors possess?
GOOD TO GREAT: THEY HAVE STRONG EDUCATION AND TRAINING
By choosing a doctor who is Board Certified by one of the twenty-four American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Member Boards, you can feel confident he or she meets nationally recognized standards for education, knowledge, experience and skills to provide high quality care in a specific medical specialty. Board Certification goes above and beyond basic medical licensure. Determining if a particular doctor is Board Certified is fast, free, and easy. Simply visit the ABMS website, register, and plug in the doctor’s name and city.Mike Lipscomb, MD, an Emergency Room doctor at North Fulton Hospital in Roswell, Georgia and a physician with Apollo MD believes that doctors at the top of their fields have solid educational and training foundations to draw upon as they practice medicine. But Lipscomb also offers a warning.”I wouldn’t put much weight on the big-name schools,” he says.He explains that tuition expenses at these elite schools can reach well over $50,000 per year making them unrealistic options for many medical students.”Many state schools are less than a third of this,” he continues. “High price doesn’t correlate to a better education. Some of the best physicians I know went to large state universities for school, and they made the choice to come out with as little debt as possible.”And I wouldn’t put much stock in research,” says Lipscomb. “Being good in the lab doesn’t necessarily correlate to being clinically competent.” dr. jitendra swarup
GOOD TO GREAT: THEIR KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE FEED THEIR REASONING
“When seeking a physician for myself or family, I regard credentials as a bare minimum and the physician’s experience as a second layer, depending on the nature of care required,” remarks Adedapo Odetoyinbo, MD, SFHM, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Hospital Medicine at Emory Johns Creek Hospital in Georgia. “Experience plays a key role when the need is more technical in nature or when decisions need to be made quickly in an emergency situation. More important to me than research itself, is the physician’s ability to integrate research results and evidence-based medicine into their everyday practice.”Odetoyinbo refers to the doctor’s practical ability to decipher a puzzle-to select pieces of knowledge from his or her education and experiences and correctly apply them to the situation at hand. In the physician’s pursuit to protect and restore a patient’s well-being, knowledge enhances reasoning and rational decision-making, and experts agree that some doctors are simply better than others at applying what they know.