what to look for in a parkinson's doctor

What Makes a Good Doctor?

Finding the right doctor to manage Parkinson's disease (PD) can take time. Each person's Parkinson's experience is unique and what they look for in a healthcare provider relationship can vary.

To understand more about what people with PD seek in these relationships, we asked our patient leaders, "What are some of the best qualities or traits to look for in a doctor or specialist?" Here is what they shared.

Someone who is straightforward

"I want a straight-shooting professional who is encouraging, knowledgeable, and relatable. My doctor and I have been together since day one. ... I really like that he listens and cares. I also like that he spent his life working to be the best neurologist he can be." – Dan Glass

Clear communication

"Communication and a good listener are at the top of my list. I ask how they share information. Will all visit outcomes be shared in writing? How do they prefer being contacted? How do they determine what medications to prescribe? If I have a question about side effects or adverse reactions how will they be addressed?

Compassion and a good rapport are an absolute must. Will there be adequate time to have a thorough examination and time for discussion? How will they stay in communication with my many other medical specialists?" – Thea DeStephano

Takes an integrated approach

"I look for someone who is knowledgeable, active in the field, and is up to date with new medications and nonmedication treatment options. They have been acknowledged as well-versed in Parkinson’s, whether that is by other patients, studies the doctor published, or neurological groups with which they work.

... Another good quality is the willingness to look at an integrated approach to the patient’s care. It is expected that a doctor will discuss and probably prescribe medications. I think it is also important for the doctor to discuss the roles of exercise, nutrition, and emotional health." – Lorraine Wilson

Specialized in Parkinson's

"My number one criteria would be a neurologist who specializes in treating Parkinson’s, or better yet, a movement disorder specialist in one of the Parkinson’s Centers of Excellence. ... I would add someone who is willing to spend the time necessary to answer all your questions. Parkinson’s is not a disease that can be handled in a 15-minute appointment.

Next would be empathy followed by the ability to explain diagnoses and courses of treatment in language you can understand. Parkinson’s treatment often involves other medical specialists, and your doctor should be a team leader in your treatment." – Phil Horton

Mutual respect

"If you and your neurologist can’t communicate and agree upon a plan to address how to navigate your current symptoms, then you both need to have a heart-to-heart talk or part ways.

Communication goes both ways. Make sure that you really listen to your doctor’s comments and that they are hearing what you want to express. The more knowledgeable you prove to be about your condition, the greater your bond with your doctor should be. Mutual respect makes doctor visits much less stressful." – Karl Robb

They see me as a person

"I look for a doctor who looks at me not as a Parkinson’s patient, but a person with Parkinson’s. I look for a doctor who stays up to date on the most recent research and procedures. I want a doctor who is listening to my concerns even when he’s typing my info into my chart.

I am pleased when a doctor takes a holistic approach. One who considers the impact of my other debilitating physical conditions on Parkinson’s and vice versa. Finally, they must not be rushed during my appointment. It is most uncomfortable to feel like one is 'cattle' being herded through the examining room." – Pat LaPointe

Someone who is competent

"Passion, competence, compassion, and the ability to communicate are what I look for in a physician. Passion means the doctor loves helping others and focuses on improving every aspect of the profession from patient care to medical and scientific knowledge.

By competence I mean mastery of the knowledge or seeking out the knowledge needed for treating the condition. For Parkinson’s disease, that means a neurologist who is a movement disorder specialist. ... Compassion for the patient and those the patient cares about.

Finally, I think communication skills are necessary for a doctor to truly converse with and understand the patient." – Robert Hunt

Demonstrates compassion

"Someone who shows compassion for their patients along with a genuine desire to provide the best possible care they can.

This can be demonstrated in any number of ways, from how I am greeted in the doctor’s office (I once had a doctor that saw it as his responsibility to go to the waiting room to get their patient as opposed to letting the nurse do it as is the norm), to how much time is spent during the visit getting to know me and my health concerns. When I visit a doctor, I don’t want to feel rushed or made to feel like I’ve asked too many questions." – John Bennett

They are empathetic

"My dad has been vetting doctors for long enough to know how to find the right specialists all by himself. But if I were looking for the best possible options for him, I’d want to know that his doctor is honest, smart, and that they have a good bedside manner. ... My dad benefits from the kind of bluntness that can’t be overlooked. But he’s also sensitive, and needs empathy.

At one point, I went to a neurology appointment with my dad. His doctor gave him the blunt advice that he needs. But she delivered it with a coldness that felt rather insensitive to me. In the future, I wish his doctors would use questions to address some of the issues at hand instead of accusations or claims." – Mary Beth

Meets your specific criteria

"Ask for a referral from others that already have gone to local neurology practices. Ask them why or why not they would recommend the doctor or group. Make sure this doctor is under your insurance plan or takes Medicare (whichever applies to your situation).

Location makes a difference. Is this doctor close by for your convenience? Are they affiliated with the same hospital as other specialists that you use? Does this group offer other benefits to your loved one? ... Look for a doctor that has both the medical knowledge you are seeking as well as compassionate communication skills.

My father has been going to the same neurology group for several years. ... The doctor is the not the best choice, in my opinion, but she has the history with my father and is in a group that meets most of the criteria I listed above. We have added another neurologist from the group who specializes in dementia. The combined efforts of the two doctors best fit my father’s current needs." – Suzanne Troy

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