Choosing a doctor you feel comfortable and confident with is always important. If you’re 65 or older, however, choosing the right doctor is especially critical for your health. There are a number of factors that contribute to choosing the best doctor, either for yourself, or for a loved one you are committed to helping care for. For elderly adults receiving guidance or support from family members with health decisions, it is important to collaborate on choosing a doctor.
Consider Seeing a Geriatric Specialist
Many aging adults will consult with more than just one doctor in order to address the totality of their health needs. This is a reality of aging that is not necessarily convenient, but the best approach to preventing deteriorated health. There are a number of different specialists that older adults are more likely to meet with than other patients, but the specialist who works exclusively with senior patients is a Geriatrician. Geriatricians are well versed in the conditions most likely to affect older adults. Just a few of their areas of expertise include diagnosing and monitoring signs of dementia, cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, and diabetes. This makes them well equipped to diagnose and treat common conditions experienced by seniors.
All adults over 65 should consider seeing a geriatric doctor in order to receive health care best suited to the needs of seniors. As experts in elderly health, they can offer expertise to aging patients that other doctors are not as knowledgeable in.
Tips for Choosing a Doctor
If you have decided to consult with a Geriatrician, or simply look for a new doctor in general, you may want guidance on how to choose the right doctor. There are a few general criteria, as well as useful questions to ask, that can help your search.
Research Credentials and Experience
For any type of doctor, it is important to confirm their credentials. Board certification is the most important credential for a doctor. They ensure that a physician has the skills and training necessary to treat patients. You can also easily find their medical school graduation details, training, and certifications online.
You will also want to learn about their experience in their field. Ask how long they have been working in their practice and how many patients they have treated. If they need to perform a procedure, find out how many times they have done the procedure before.
Access Former Patient Reviews
Reading reviews by former patients will help you form a more holistic decision when finding a doctor. This will supplement any criticisms or notes on a doctor that you would not know by simply reading over their credentials and experience. Patient reviews will also likely give you an idea of the doctor’s office or hospital environment and the staff you will interact with there. You can easily find patient reviews on a number of websites, including HealthGrades.com and RateMDs.com. While these reviews are all opinion based and should be taken with a grain of salt, they can offer helpful insights.
Creating a Network of Specialists
Receiving referrals from a primary doctor is one way to create a solid network when consulting with multiple specialists. Your primary care doctor can refer a Geriatrician to you. Geriatricians can also act as a point of contact for other specialists. Because they cater to general senior health, they often refer their patients to other specialists if they see fit. For example, if a Geriatrician recognizes symptoms of heart failure in a patient, they might refer them to a Cardiologist.
With a trusted doctor, utilizing referrals can create confidence that their referrals are also trustworthy. This also ensures open lines of communication between all of your doctors. Keeping referrals within one hospital, medical facility, or affiliated network of facilities will make this communication even easier.
Compatibility between a doctor and patient is extremely important. Not only does it make meetings more comfortable, but can increase communication and lead to more thorough checkups. For patients who are also receiving help from family members, a certain degree of compatibility between a doctor and the patient’s family is also a factor to consider. Some family members might feel the need to communicate more heavily with their loved one’s doctor, depending on a patient’s own abilities. Especially if a patient is suffering from dementia, it is important that their caregivers can communicate well with doctors.
Evaluating a physician’s communication style can help determine compatibility. Ask them how they typically involve patients (and their families) in all aspects of their treatment processes. Additionally, pay close attention to how a doctor answers questions. Do they fully answer all of their patient’s concerns and confusions and speak respectfully to their patient? These are important considerations when searching for a doctor that is easy to communicate with.
Additionally, consider whether a doctor’s gender is important in the decision process. Some patients feel more comfortable with doctors of their same gender. Even if this isn’t important to you, some doctors are more specialized in treating a certain gender. Ask your doctor if they specialize more heavily in women’s or men’s health.
Look for Respect and Trust
Lastly, it is important that a physician dedicates enough time and attention to each of their patients. Although doctors often have busy schedules, a good doctor will take the time to be thorough in patient interactions. If a doctor seems impersonal or rushed with their patients, they may not be the most trustworthy choice. Considering a combination of competency and personability can serve as a great guide in choosing the best doctor for you or your loved one.