As we start a new year, many of us might have enrolled in new insurance programs and discovered that their doctors are no longer in-network, even worse, not covered by your insurance plan. Due to the hostile environment in which medicine finds itself these days, perhaps your physician, like mine, has decided to move or retire leaving us a bit anxious over finding a new person we can trust. The longer we have been with a physician or the longer we have been battling with a chronic complex illness such as PD, the more daunting the task of finding the one that will mesh well with our expectations. I am in such a position at the moment having lost not one, but 3 physicians at the same time. Fortunately, I still have my movement disorder specialist (MDS) but have a bit of apprehension knowing full well that she will be retiring in next couple of years.
So how do we approach finding a new doctor?
- Ask other patients and friends in your circle who they see and trust.
- Sometimes you may not have a choice because there is only one MDS in your area or none in your state.
- Another alternative is to enroll in a study so that you not only contribute to neurosciences research but also get the added bonus of having a physician or team of healthcare providers.
You found someone – now what?
Keep in mind that it’s always difficult to start a new relationship, especially one in which you can be yourself and feel comfortable sharing intimate details.
You would not expect a new love interest to know all about you from day one. It takes time to get to know a person. Unfortunately, the same is true with establishing a relationship with a new provider. Look for chemistry. There are some people that you know you won’t like even if you get to know them better. If this is the case move on. You must approach it with an open mind. When it comes to complex conditions, especially if present long-term, you need at least 3 visits to begin forming a plan everyone is happy with and knowing the direction treatment will take.
There are two important elements to finding and establishing a good doctor-patient relationship:
In order to forge a long lasting meaningful relationship with your physicians, one must offer respect first. You have the expertise of one while they have the expertise of thousands. You would not take kindly to someone outside of your field telling you how to do your job. At the same time, your healthcare professionals should be equally respectful of your needs as well as the knowledge you have regarding your own body and illness.
Second, take responsibility for the way you feel, project yourself, and type of physician you are needing. Are you in need of a paternalistic figure? A partner? Or a friend? The best relationships are the ones that have elements of all 3; give you tough love when need it, listen intently to your wishes and provide comfort, while meeting you halfway in your battle against PD. Make feasible demands of your physician (e.g. not expect to be pain-free at first visit when you have been dealing with pain for years). Things can always be accomplished in a gradual manner and realistic expectations. Keep lines of communication open.