Shopping for the right doctor - East Valley Tribune: Business

Shopping for the right doctor

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Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2007 4:15 am | Updated: 6:57 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Every day, a recent arrival to the East Valley becomes sick or injured, and requires medical assistance. The question facing them or anyone who hasn’t received medical assistance locally is where do they go for help?

It’s a good idea to examine this issue while you’re in good health to ensure the best possible treatment, according to local health care officials.

“I’ve heard anecdotally that people spend much more time picking out a car than they do finding a physician, which I think is a huge mistake,” said Andrea Smiley of the Arizona Medical Association. Employee health plans, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, can dictate the amount of choice consumers have in selecting a provider, so choice should be a consideration before selecting a plan, she said.

Second opinions not only are useful in determining whether a physician’s prescribed treatment is necessary, but also in determining which hospital is best for you, said Dr. Charles Daschbach, director of academic affairs at Valley-based St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

“Besides asking whether they need surgery or not, they should ask is this a good hospital or is that a good hospital for me,” he said. “We talk about getting second opinions for doctors, let’s also get second opinions on hospitals.”

DR. RIGHT

Your insurance physician network may dictate the size of the pool of physicians from which you can choose, Smiley said. Select a few physicians located within your desired driving distance and check their licenses online (the Arizona Medical Board for allopathic physicians, the Arizona Board of Osteopathic Examiners for osteopathic physicians). Also, check their various board certifications online.

The Arizona Medical Board and the Arizona Board of Osteopathic Examiners also can tell you whether a physician has had any disciplinary actions or reprimands.

“If you’ve narrowed it down to a handful of physicians ... then you want to ask family and friends,” Smiley said. “Do they know this physician? Do they know anyone who has had experience with them? Get some anecdotal stories about their interactions with that physician.”

Finally, schedule a “meet and greet” with the selected physicians, she said. Most set aside time in their day for these meetings, she said.

“For some people, a physician who asks all the questions is what they want,” Smiley said. “Others want to be able to come in with their reams of Internet research and their two or three pages of questions, and there are physicians who are prepared for that and welcome that.”

RIGHT DOCTOR, RIGHT HOSPITAL

Your doctor can guide you to the right hospital for your needs, said Dr. Marjorie Bessel, chief medical officer at Banner Gateway Hospital, a new hospital that will open in mid-September in Gilbert.

Patients should ask their doctors which hospital they work with, she said.

“They might have been seeing a cardiologist or a pulmonary specialist for a number of years, and then they go to an emergency department and end up getting admitted to a hospital where their longterm cardiologist or pulmonary specialty doctor doesn’t work. That makes it very difficult to have that nice continuity of care.”

If you’ve been to a local hospital before and were satisfied with your experience, it’s a good idea to return to that same hospital so your old records are easily accessible, Bessel said.

“That’s very important to make sure key information that may have been discovered during a previous hospital stay will carry forward to all of the doctors who may be taking care of you,” she said.

Physicians generally have a good idea of each hospital’s quality track record in different treatment areas, Daschbach said. Also, it may be a good idea to ask your physician if he/she can refer you to a former patient who’s had a particular surgery at a hospital, he said.

Do your homework

For doctors

• Arizona Medical Board, at www.azmdboard.org/. Verify an allopathic physician’s license, and check for any disciplinary actions and reprimands.

• Arizona Board of Osteopathic Examiners, www.azosteoboard.org/. Verify an osteopathic physician’s license and check for any disciplinary actions and reprimands.

For hospitals

• Hospital Compare, at http://www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov, is a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Web site that provides information on how well the hospitals in your area care for all their adult patients with certain medical conditions.

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