Doctor Shopping: It's A Real Thing
This week I read a really great article in the New York Times by Mikkael A. Sekkeres, the director of the Leukemia Program at the Cleveland Clinic. The article was aptly titled “Shopping for a Doctor who ‘fits’”, and it discussed something we’ve seen as a growing trend in our industry.
Now, more than ever, patients are seeking second opinions. They’re seeking third opinions. They’re switching PCP’s. They’re trading doctors like Halloween candy. And the thing is, it’s not necessarily good or bad. It’s a simple reality of the new world of health care that we live in.
In the article, Sekkeres notes that things didn’t always use to be this way. “Decades ago, when physicians worked within a much more paternalistic system, such ‘doctor shopping’ would have been considered inappropriate. Your doctor’s medical opinions were considered authoritative, incontrovertible and often final. Patients who challenged them were labeled ‘difficult’, and worried about developing a reputation that would influence their care, both with their own doctor and with others. In recent years, patients have become more empowered to demand both good care and a good attitude. Given some of the stories I have heard, I can’t say that I blame them.”
It’s not enough anymore to be a qualified doctor with strong opinions. All the skill and education in the world can’t make up for poor bedside manner, for arrogance and aloofness, or for any of the other negative characteristics that several doctors employ. Yes, our patients are there because they need our medical advice, but in most cases they also need much more than that.
They need compassion, they need care. They need strong medical advice coupled with the knowledge that the person giving it truly cares about them and what they’re going through. They need someone who can walk the fine line between too blunt and too gentle. They need someone confident in their diagnosis and treatment plan, but patient enough to listen to and answer their questions. At the end of the day, they need someone whose opinion they can respect and value yet whose personality they can click with.
And why shouldn’t they? If one of our loved ones was ill and seeking medical care, wouldn’t we not only want the same for them, but expect it? Understanding this is absolutely key for each and every doctor out there who regularly interacts with patients, whether they’re a PCP, a neurosurgeon, or a radiation oncology specialist.
Being able to combine specialized knowledge about your medical field with the ability to connect with patients on a somewhat personal level is becoming increasingly important in the medical world of today, in the one where doctor shopping is no longer frowned upon and is instead encouraged. It’s something we believe patients deserve from their doctors, and it’s something each and every one of our doctors strives to embody. We hope that, for our patients, the doctor shopping ends with us.