A common question I hear is “How do I choose the best doctor”? It’s not an easy question to answer. Choosing a doctor or hospital is a very personal choice. It may be important for you to be a close distance from your doctor because travel is an issue or that you go very often to see your doctor. Some people want someone they can talk to, feel listened to and are just generally very comfortable with. You may want someone who specializes in certain areas or choose a surgeon who has done the procedure numerous times (but how were the outcomes?) I will hear that the “best” doctor is actually a really nice person – since we really don’t know what makes someone the best at anything. It is, after all a personal choice.

By checking websites such as you can learn if the doctor has done any outstanding work in their field, where they went to school and how long they are practicing. You can learn if the doctor has been disciplined by the state or about their malpractice settlements, if there were over three in ten years. But there is no way of knowing if there are pending lawsuits or disciplinary charges.

I was recently asked how someone would choose between two hospitals. The caller had a hospital he was ready to use for surgery. He said someone questioned his choice. I would not give my opinion since even at the “best” hospitals, things can go wrong. A patient can get an infection, the wrong surgery can be performed or the patient may receive the wrong medication at any hospital.

What actually needs to be addressed is what we can do, as patients and as family members, to help ensure the best outcome.

This link to a Quick Guide to Patient Advocacy explains the simplest steps family or friends of the patient can do such as listening carefully, writing down questions in advance and insisting the doctor answers so you can understand. Don’t allow a doctor to rush you and share accurate information freely. Be honest about lifestyle and medications, vitamins and supplements. Understanding the policy’s and safety practices when entering the hospital, and knowing that they are being followed, is an important way to help ensure safe care.

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