Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How I Choose a Health Care Professional

Yesterday I had an appointment with my dentist. Let me tell you a bit about my experiences with health professionals - the fact is, as has been written here in my blog and commented on by friends - I am by nature a bit of a hermit. I just don't have an affinity for people.* I think this makes me view health care pros in a different light than other people.

For one thing, I don't believe in loyalty if you aren't happy with the service. Too many people go to the same doctor year after year, even though they don't like them, just because that is their "family doctor." It is one thing if you are happy with your practitioner - my mom has been going to the same dentist for over 30 years and loves him, but if you don't like the person, stop using them. I know why people do it - for one thing it is easy, rather predictable and there is that old adage about the "devil you know." Plus, there is something to be said about someone who knows your family history, but let's face it - you are paying these people to take care of you. They are the ones who should be providing good customer service, you shouldn't be suffering just because he knows all about your great Aunt Sadie's lumbago. Or maybe they are providing good service, but you just don't "click." Find someone new. Finding a new doctor/dentist/etc. is a pain, but worth the effort in the long run. (I find friends' referrals are the best way to go.)

I also believe in finding someone who meets your needs. For example, one of the things that drives me crazy about doctors, dentists, hairdressers, massage therapists and so on is their drive to make small talk. Now I know I am mostly alone on this one - most people like their hairdresser to ask all sorts of personal questions. Personally, I find it annoying. It isn't like the person on the other end of the hairdryer, stethoscope or tongue depressor really cares where I went to High School. It is always a touch too personal to me. I don't know why the person rubbing out the big knot in my back has to know if I have pets. In my opinion, they should do their job and work on me, and I will do mine and pay their bill. Now as I said, I realize I sound like a complete curmudgeon when I say these things, yet it is how I feel. Why deny that? So my task is to find good practitioners, giving good service, that don't spend half the time with a dental pick deep in my jaw asking me questions about my last vacation - or telling me about theirs. (Yes, I actually switched from my last dentist for precisely this reason.) On the other hand, if you like your practitioner to give that kind of personal touch, than that is what you should find. There are plenty of reasons to dread going to the dentist without their personality being one of them.

There is one more rule of thumb I have too...

If I am not comfortable with their suggestions or health recommendations, I tell them so - then ask for an alternative. This goes with anything I don't feel is necessary. Doctors can occasionally bully us into feeling like sheep. I won't take that. If I have questions, I ask them - even if it means writing them down first and hauling out my notepad later. If I don't feel it is necessary to be weighed, I tell them. And you know what I have found? So far, every doctor that I have expressed my concerns to has appreciated my input. They respected me more and were more willing to take time with me. Perhaps it isn't so much that they treat us like sheep, but that we expect them to be shepherds.

However, I would never put down the brave men and woman who work on us (and yes, I consider them brave - would you want to do what they do? I wouldn't!) My point is simply that like any other relationship, it will be far more successful if you work to find someone you are compatible with - even if you are as quirky as me. Find people that fit your personality if you can. By taking this route, I really respect and appreciate my doctors, dentist and other service providers. I am extremely happy with them and I feel our working relationship is a really positive one.

....and they almost never ask me about my vacations.

* Despite the fact they sometimes have to haul me out of my cave, I am fortunate enough to have some of the best and most amazing friends and family in the whole wide world. I am one lucky woman!

Photo by: jbelluch


David Kolenda said...

I completely agree. I changed dentists a few years back because I couldn't stand the hygienist. I wasn't her friend and I didn't want to be her friend. I wanted her to do her job so I could go back to the rest of my day.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a health care provider, I agree whole-heartedly, Dawn! We do a much better job as medical professionals if you don't expect us to read your minds. We're not Gods (although some in the medical profession think they are), and that is one heck of a standard to live up to anyway. And probably, if you are uncomfortable with us, we are with you, too.

Frugalchick said...

I also dislike small talk while receiving professional services! And I am i the midst of searching for a new dentist for exactly those reasons you described: too much small talk with a dental probe deep in my mouth and just plain bad customer service.

Bouncing Back said...

I hear ya on this! I had the same dentist from age 5 until age 26. I moved out of the area and he retired. It was a PIA to find a new one. I did click with one dentist whom I used the entire time I lived in the Northern VA area, but it took me a couple visits to other practioners to find a dentist that respected my views on health care. (I have a background/training in alternative health and theraphies). It aslo took me a while to find a new GP when I moved back to new england who did not look at me like I was crazy when I said I prefered to have a hot whiskey and a Vic's Vapo rub plaster to help combat a cold over things like Nyquil and other drugs.

Dawn said...

David and Frugalchick - You guys are great! I thought I was the only one who was uncomfortable about small talk! Now I don't feel like such an loner oddball... I have you guys to be oddballs with me.

Anonymous - I agree full completely! My therapist said something along the same lines not long ago. It has to work on *both* sides for it to be the best and most effective relationship. Continuing to go to someone it isn't "clicking" with is hard on both sides.

Bouncing Back - Good point! Similar understanding on health care is another great reason to search for practitioners that meet your needs. Then once you find those perfect matches it is best to hang on to them! I really like all the folks that work on me - and would refer them to anyone in a heartbeat.

louise said...

oh I'm with you on this one! I spend 8-9 hours a day listening intently to people and I just want to sit is silence when I'm getting a haircut or seeing a dentist. What I hate most is when some young bouncy 20- something asks "and what are you doing on the weekend?" uh.. housework?

on the flip side in a health professional role I love it when people come in with a list of questions or have questions to ask about my quals,services etc before the book and appointment, it tells me they are active participants in their health care.