Pulse of Oriental Medicine: Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks









Choosing a Great
Health Care Provider
by Dr. Michel F. Garay


God has given us self-induced healing abilities. A wound heals or we will bleed to death or die from infection each time we cut a finger or have a skin scratch. Spirituality is a healing force and support. There is only one way to relieve suffering and it is by attuning yourself to the healer within. No one can do this for you, but a good doctor - one who supports your inner journey and understands - is an invaluable ally, a wise and compassionate teacher. Then, and only then, can medicine become what it should be - "a healing art" or else it remains just a common trade.

"Most people spend more time buying a suit
than selecting a doctor!"

This article will help you choose an M.D., Acupuncturist, Chiropractor, Herbalist or other health care practitioner. As medicine has come to rely more and more on sophisticated tools, the personal aspects of care have been minimized. The way your doctor talks, works and relates with you is critical to the quality of your healthcare.

You may not have as much medical knowledge as your doctor, but you do have your brain, feelings, and instincts and you live with yourself every day, so you know how you feel, behave and react. You have a longer, deeper and more intimate knowledge of yourself than your doctor does. Use this to your advantage… you know enough to ask questions and make decisions.

Most people spend more time buying a suit than selecting a doctor! This carelessness could mean the difference between life, death and permanent impairment.

What is Competency, Really?

"The difference between a good and a bad doctor
is not so much the academic credentials
as one of attitude and caring."

Diplomas, certifications and office location tell you little about your doctor's competency. They don't prove professional excellence. Nor can performance, concern and a caring attitude be measured by a test. The difference between a good and a bad doctor is not so much the academic credentials as one of attitude and caring towards you. Most bad doctors don't lack medical knowledge or credentials, but they simply don't care enough about their patients. An Ivy League medical school doesn't guarantee that the doctor is more qualified than the one who attended a less prestigious school. Doctors today often look great on paper; they belong to medical societies and have hospital privileges. Checking their alma mater is of little value, because they're all fully accredited and offer high quality education. You know what they call the person who graduates lasts in their medical school class? Doctor.

Medical knowledge is indispensable, but if the doctor doesn't have a caring and committed attitude to apply to each situation, the patient-doctor relationship breaks down. The relationship between patient and doctor is a bond between two people. They don't take your power away and you feel safe in his office. The incompetent doctor doesn't necessarily suffer from poor medical knowledge, lack of licensing boards or certifications but apathy, laziness and/or greed.

Some signs of incompetence: Treats symptoms not people with disease, limits an examination to complaints and symptoms, makes telephone diagnoses and uses dangerous drugs unnecessarily.

"A doctor who cares makes eye contact with you,
and concentrates on you"

Competency is closely related to character, ethics, self-image, and attitude toward patients. You are a better judge of a doctor's competency than any certifying agency. A good primary care physician is one who takes responsibility for your continuous total health care (preventive, curative and rehabilitative) in a very personal way. He may refer you to a specialist but follows your progress closely. A doctor who cares makes eye contact with you, and concentrates on you - not just on moving on to the next patient. True patient-care can not be programmed or acquired through certification or licenses, some doctors have it and some do not. Testing and renewing for licensure can not eliminate , irresponsibility, carelessness, poor communication or callousness.

Good Medicine Takes Time

"A busy doctor is a good one
but an overscheduled doctor is not."

When you go to see a Doctor and they don't sense that there is a human being inside you, leave the office. They must take care of you… not just the disease, because each illness is unique to the patient. I don't mean that you should refuse treatment, but your options and specific information must be explained. It is your life, you have the right to agree or disagree and make your needs known. You shouldn't have to wait 30-45 minutes at every visit. If you do, you're owed an apology and explanation. Your doctor should respect your schedule. A busy doctor is a good one but an overscheduled doctor is not. A good doctor deals with people, not just health problems. Patient lifestyle, emotional behavior, environment and nutritional habits are the key to the disease. Good medicine takes patience and time. A doctor in a hurry can be a good technician, but not a good doctor.

Each Patient is Unique

"Medicine is the art of understanding the person."

A doctor must allow each patient to express themselves in their own unique way. There is overwhelming evidence that patients want to be fully informed and need to be informed if they are going to make their own decisions. Real people are different from textbook cases. They are living human beings with their own uniqueness. "I will be dealing with my patients the same as I will wish to be dealt with if I was in the patient position". A doctor must be a good listener, explain the treatment and medications and encourage questions. He must teach you how to live well, be healthy. He should be humble enough to admit the limitations of his (and all) medical knowledge. Medicine is the art of understanding the person and not just the physiological systems. In medical schools, we deal with diseases, cases, body systems and medical procedures. In the clinic, we deal with people, families, community, culture, environment and lifestyles. Medicine has always been more art than science.

Choosing a Health Care Provider

There is no infallible method for choosing a doctor, but you can take some steps to protect yourself and your family.

  1. Compile a list of potential doctors. Ask friends, co-workers, family members, nurses or other health care practitioners for recommendations (this is better than consulting doctor or hospital referral services).
  2. Contact your state licensing board to check each doctor's licensure status. Ask about their certifications, professional organizations and hospital affiliation. Board certifications and state licensure are a good start, but only demonstrate a minimum standard of excellence.
  3. Make an initial phone call to see if the office staff is friendly and helpful. Their attitudes usually reflect the attitude of the doctor for whom they work. Tell the secretary that you are looking for a doctor and would like to schedule an appointment with the doctor to get acquainted. If the doctor isn't taking new patients and you aren't sick, you may choose to wait for the next available visit. Even just a few minutes on the phone with the doctor may provide a sample of their manners. A good doctor will respond fully, empathize and act as a wise and compassionate teacher.

Some Questions to Answer for Yourself:

  • Do they have or project a healthy lifestyle? Do they look healthy? Keep in mind that one's life is one's message.
  • Do they seem to sincerely care about you? Do you feel trust and confidence? Do they show interest in your family, lifestyle, and diet? Are you advised about other options or treatments? Do you participate in choosing these options? Are they accessible?
  • Are you working as a partner with this physician? Healing is a relationship. You want someone who will be a team player… one who will work with you. Will he/she be supportive to you making your own decisions even if at times they are contrary to his/her advice? Are you unconditionally accepted?
  • Do they offer a sliding fee scale based upon financial need? Medicine today is practiced like any other business to stay afloat. . However some doctors view their work as a service or ministry and understand people's financial limitations, so they allow flexibility in their financial arrangements.

After the visit:

  • How well did they communicate with you? Do you feel at ease talking to them?
  • Did they teach you about prevention and good health maintenance? This is one of the most important qualities in distinguishing the mediocre doctor from the excellent one.

"While doctors should tell you the side effects,
cost, effectiveness of procedures and options,
no law ensures that they will fulfill it."

Don't hesitate to try another doctor if your trial visit isn't great. Remember, that while doctors should tell you the side effects, cost, effectiveness of procedures and options, no law ensures that they will fulfill it. Getting good treatment is up to you… unless your know your medical rights, there is a good chance they will be violated.

Find a licensed acupuncturist here: "Resources for Finding Acupuncturists and Herbalists"

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