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Fear of Sickness or Sickness of Fear?

I am wild about TED talks. If you aren’t familiar with these, TED stands for Technology, Education and Design. The talks are 18 minutes or less, and they are fascinating. My favorites are the TEDMED talks, all centering around health and medicine.

Recently, I listed to a 2014 TEDMED talk by Leana Wen, MD. The talk was, “What Your Doctor Won’t Disclose.” In this talk, Dr. Wen argues that physicians are aloof and not all that accessible to their patients. It is her opinion that doctors contribute to a core problem in our current health care system, and that is that we not only have a fear of sickness, we have a sickness of fear.

I think she is right. We are not only afraid of becoming sick, our fear is hijacking our well-being. For me, I’d rather live with an illness than live with fear. Fear is debilitating.

To alleviate that fear, Dr. Wen challenges health care providers to be transparent. Patients should be able to shop around for physicians who have the qualities that patients are looking for.

I agree with Dr. Wen, but, I know that it takes time to change big systems such as our health care system.  However, there are a few things you can do to learn more about your doctor.  Start by asking people you know in the medical field who their favorite doctors are. You can also ask your friends to recommend a medical provider. Look on the web to find credentials and review. Although sites such as Healthgrades, Vitals and Yelp are not perfect, you can sometimes find something that may influence you. This is how I found my doctor, and I really like her.

Before meeting with a potential physician, you can get basic info over the phone:

  • Ask if the provider is accepting new patients.
  • Find out how soon you can be seen. What is the typical wait time for an appointment?
  • Is your insurance accepted? If so, be certain you understand any co-pays, deductibles, or other out-of-pocket costs for which you may be responsible.
  • Is your insurance accepted? If so, be certain you understand any co-pays, deductibles, or other out-of-pocket costs for which you may be responsible.
  • Does the office bill your insurance or will you need to pay the fee directly and manage the insurance reimbursement yourself?
  • What are the fees? Does the provider charge for time spent talking to you on the phone?
  • If you are seeing a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, then who is the physician overseeing his/her practice?
  • Will you be seeing the provider you have requested, or will you see other people in that medical group?
  • Which hospital is the physician affiliated with?
  • Does the medical group have an advice nurse who is available for phone calls?

When you meet with the physician, ask yourself:

  •  Did the provider seem knowledgeable and experienced?
  •  Does this provider communicate well?
  •  Do you feel the provider gave you his or her full attention?
  •  Is this a person you would want on your medical team?

You may not be able to make an accurate assessment after one visit, but if you have strong feelings about the provider you met, pay attention to these. If the experience is negative, don’t be afraid to shop around.

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