Find a Good Doctor

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The vast majority of healthcare professionals want to help you get well. But given the complexity and demanding nature of chronic conditions, a conventional doctor alone may simply not have the necessary time, experience, or knowledge to help put the puzzle together. Choosing a practitioner who has experience in the areas you require can be one of the most important health decisions you will ever make.


Online Resources for Finding a Good Doctor:


Be Sure to “Interview” Potential Doctors

Once you narrow your search to a doctor who has successfully treated other patients with your condition, you will want to meet with that doctor and make sure you have selected a healthcare provider with whom you are comfortable and in whom you are confident. Some doctors will offer free consultations to allow you to get to know them. However, many of the best doctors are very busy and have little time to spare for informal meetings so you will have to become acquainted with them during the course of a regular appointment.

Look for the following characteristics as you “interview” your prospective doctor:

  • The doctor is patient and listens to you.
  • The doctor is open to discussion about your ideas regarding your health and treatment.
  • The treatment plan is customized for you, based upon a battery of functional tests (when financially possible) that cover the entire body and help to discover problems that may even seem unrelated to the most obvious symptoms.


Remember that the final responsibility for any patient’s health lies with the patient. As you search for healthcare that meets your needs, keep in mind that the most important practitioner is you. Any doctor you choose should be willing to collaborate with you to treat your ailments and maintain your health at an optimal level.


Ask for Advice

If you're not certain which healthcare approach is right for you -- let alone which doctor can best treat your chronic ailments -- how do you decide? Since a doctor’s attitude and competence is just as important as the professional training he or she has received, the choice of a doctor is a significant and challenging responsibility for every patient.

Sometimes it helps to rely on the experience of others. Ask friends and relatives if they can recommend a healthcare professional. In particular, seek out recommendations from people who have complaints similar to yours and who have had positive (or negative) experiences that they can share with you. Ask for several names if possible since a doctor who worked well with a friend may not necessarily be right for you.

You should also strongly consider visiting a compounding pharmacy — a pharmacy that formulates medication from raw ingredients instead of just dispensing manufactured medicines — and ask the pharmacist to recommend those doctors who treat your condition. Since “alternative” treatments are not always readily available from large manufacturers, many doctors work closely with compounding pharmacies that can custom prepare their medications. A local compounding pharmacy can be found using the yellow pages or searching the internet.

You should also search the internet for the names of doctors who share your philosophy of health or who treat conditions that you know or suspect you may have. Many good doctors write about their philosophy of treatment or areas of expertise, and they present their ideas in books or articles. You may even find that one of these healthcare practitioners has a practice near you.


Dollars and Sense

Everyone knows that healthcare can be an expensive proposition -- especially if you are uninsured, or your insurance doesn't cover the healthcare providers, tests or procedures that are appropriate for your situation.

Try to keep in mind, though, that this is your very life... so it's absolutely worth the investment of a great doctor, appropriate testing, and effective treatments that can really help you feel better.

If your preferred doctor is not associated with your health plan, you may still be able to receive reimbursement on an "out-of-network" basis. Ask if your doctor's staff can help you fill out the necessary paperwork.

If you are uninsured or if your preferred provider is not covered by insurance, you may need to pay out-of-pocket for your treatment. Many doctors offer a discounted price for uninsured or cash-paying patients. Ask if your doctor offers a similar arrangement.


Conventional vs. Alternative Medicine

People often divide doctors into the broad categories of "mainstream" and "alternative". But these differentiations hide more than they reveal. There are numerous schools of thought among healthcare professionals, and many practitioners blend several approaches according to their own philosophies and the needs of their patients. So-called "alternative" approaches can often be pursued singularly or as a complement to conventional medical treatment. We believe that there are helpful elements to be found in both.

Specific types of doctors that fall into the "alternative medicine" category are:

  • Acupuncture/Acupressure/Traditional Chinese Medicine: In Traditional Chinese Medicine, good health is considered to be heavily dependent on the flow of qi (pronounced “key”), a life force that permeates the human body. Therapists encourage the flow of qi by stimulating specific anatomic points with fine needles (Acupuncture), pressure (Acupressure), heat, friction or electromagnetic energy. Acupuncture is often used to treat chronic pain.
  • Allopathy/Conventional Medicine: Allopathic or conventional physicians are what people usually think of when they think of a "doctor". Technically, Allopathy is a term applied to medical doctors by Homeopaths (see below) and is rejected by those so labeled. Conventional medical doctors (MDs) take a scientific approach to medicine, subjecting diagnostic methods and remedies to rigorous testing. They generally treat illnesses as aberrations in the body's normal functions rather than as indicators of systemic problems.
  • Chiropractic: Doctors of Chiropractic medicine, also known as Chiropractors, consider the body to be an integrated structure. They pay special attention to structural, spinal, musculoskeletal, neurological, vascular, nutritional, emotional and environmental relationships that can affect human health. Therapeutic procedures used by Chiropractors include the adjustment and manipulation of the articulations and adjacent tissues of the human body, with a special emphasis on the spinal column. Specialized Chiropractors known as Atlas Orthogonists focus on treatment of misalignments of the upper cervical spine, an area of the body often associated with chronic ailments.
  • Holistic Medicine: Holistic doctors foster a cooperative relationship with their patients in order to achieve optimal levels of physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health. This field of healthcare analyzes the whole person, including physical, nutritional, and lifestyle issues in order to assess the patient's needs. Holistic doctors are open to all forms of diagnosis and treatment, including pharmaceutical drugs and surgery if no safe alternative exists.
  • Homeopathy: Practitioners of Homeopathic Medicine see symptoms of illness as signs of efforts by the body to restore itself to health. To assist the body's efforts, they treat medical conditions by administering very small amounts of a substance that produce symptoms similar to those of the disease in healthy people. Homeopathic medicines are administered in extremely diluted amounts based on the belief that the smaller the dose, the more powerful the curative effect.
  • Naturopathy: Naturopathic doctors (NDs) believe that a patient's emotional, mental, and physical states must all be taken into account if treatments are to have a lasting effect. Naturopaths look for causes of ailments, not just symptoms, and they treat patients with natural substances including foods, food extracts, vitamins, minerals, and botanical substances. There is somewhat of a division between Traditional Naturopathy, which does not use invasive techniques such as surgery but rather focuses on lifestyle issues, and Naturopathic Medicine (NMD), where practitioners perform surgery and more closely resemble conventional physicians.
  • Osteopathy: Most modern Doctors of Osteopathy (DOs) are virtually indistinguishable from Allopaths in terms of licensing and in their everyday practice. However, the roots of Osteopathy are more holistic, with an eye toward treating the whole person and not just symptoms. Osteopaths have much the same training as Allopaths, but they often emphasize musculoskeletal manipulation.

Search for a Type of Doctor

If you want to locate a specific type of healthcare professional in your area, you may find the following resources helpful.


Keep in mind that some doctors embrace more than one school of thought in their practices. These resources may help you find a healthcare professional that best suits your needs:


Other Types of Professionals that Can Help You

  • Dentist – A professional who has a doctoral degree in dentistry (DDS) or a doctoral degree in dental medicine (DMD) who evaluates, diagnoses, and treats diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral cavity and maxillofacial area (teeth, mouth and jaw, and associated facial structure). To find a dentist that practices without mercury and that can safely remove mercury fillings, you may find the following sites helpful: DentalWellness4u.com, Mercury Free Now
  • Certified Clinical Nutritionist - A CCN assesses a person’s nutritional needs to help them achieve optimal physiological function. They use whole foods and nutritional supplements in the maintenance of health, as well as in the assistance of the body to protect against and heal itself of disease. May be considered a practitioner of holistic medicine because the clinical nutritionist views the patient as a whole person, with interdependent physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and cultural aspects. To find a CCN in your area, visit The International & American Associations of Clinical Nutritionists (IAACCN) website here.
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP) – a registered nurse with advanced academic and clinical experience that can diagnose and manage many chronic illnesses, and has the authority to write prescriptions. A nurse practitioner works closely with a physician and/or healthcare team.
  • Physician Assistant (PA) – a healthcare professional who is licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. PAs can diagnose and treat chronic illnesses and have the authority to write prescriptions.
  • Psychiatrist - A physician (MD) who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness. A psychiatrist has the authority to prescribe medications to help relieve conditions such as Anxiety and Depression.
  • Psychologist – A professional who has a doctoral degree (PhD) in Psychology from an accredited university or professional school, who provides mental health services. Psychologists can provide coping skills and techniques for managing the emotional effects of living with chronic illnesses.

Health Coaches

It may be beneficial for you to work with a health coach, someone who has "been there, done that," just like what you are going through.


Again, Remember to "Interview" Candidates

Once you narrow your search to a doctor who has successfully treated other patients with your condition, you will want to meet with that doctor and make sure you have selected a healthcare provider with whom you are comfortable and in whom you are confident. Some doctors will offer free consultations to allow you to get to know them. However, many of the best doctors are very busy and have little time to spare for informal meetings so you will have to become acquainted with them during the course of a regular appointment.

Look for the following characteristics as you “interview” your prospective doctor:

  • The doctor is patient and listens to you.
  • The doctor is open to discussion about your ideas regarding your health and treatment.
  • The treatment plan is customized for you, based upon a battery of functional tests—when financially possible—that cover the entire body and help to discover problems that may even seem unrelated to the most obvious symptoms.


Remember that the final responsibility for any patient’s health lies with the patient. As you search for healthcare that meets your needs, keep in mind that the most important practitioner is you. Any doctor you choose should be willing to collaborate with you to treat your ailments and maintain your health at an optimal level.


Sources

“Acupuncture”
http://www.holistic-online.com/Acupuncture/acp_home.htm
Accessed: March 2005.

American Academy of Osteopathy
http://www.academyofosteopathy.org/
Accessed: March 2005.

American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
http://www.naturopathic.org/
Accessed: March 2005.

American Association of Oriental Medicine
http://www.aaom.org/
Accessed: March 2005.

American Chiropractic Association
http://www.amerchiro.org/
Accessed: March 2005.

American Holistic Health Association
http://ahha.org/
Accessed: March 2005.

Atlas Orthogonal Chiropractic
http://www.atlasorthogonality.com/index.htm
Accessed: March 2005.

Coalition for Natural Health
http://www.naturalhealth.org/index.shtml
Accessed: March 2005.

Holistic Medicine
http://www.holisticmed.com/
Accessed: March 2005.

National Center for Homeopathy
http://www.homeopathic.org/
Accessed: March 2005.

  • Finding A Good Doctor
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