8 Questions and Answers…
What to Know When Considering a New Doctor
May 11, 2021 – What should anyone know or ask when considering a new doctor or primary care physician? On his regular podcast, Dr. Steven Goldstein, founder of the Houston Healthcare Initiative tells his listeners what to know and ask when considering a move and why we all even need our own primary care physician. Below is a list of questions and Dr. Goldstein’s answers to them.
Where to Listen
To hear the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast, visit one of the following: : Apple Podcasts, LibSyn, Spotify, Radio.Com, Listen Notes, iHeart Radio, Podcast Addict, Podbay, Backtracks, Player FM, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.
Questions and Answers
- Why is choosing a regular or primary care doctor such a big deal?
“If you don’t have a regular or primary care doctor, you could be missing out on a very important relationship with someone in a position to help you stay healthy and live the best life possible. Over time, a regular or primary care doctor learns all about you and your history. So, choosing one is very important and the right time to find one is when you do not need one for any type of immediate care.”
- A regular primary care physician knows us, which is good. But what other reasons are there to have one?
“People with primary care doctors are more likely to get preventive services, including cancer screenings, and report significantly better health care access. According to the Journal of American Medicine, Americans with primary care doctors received significantly more high-value care and reported significantly better health care access and experience. Patients in states that spend more on primary care have fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits. So, there is no doubt that a regular or primary care physician is an important part of anyone’s health and well-being.”
- How does one go about finding a primary care doctor?
“Make sure that the doctor you choose or consider, offers easy access – either by phone, email, telemedicine visit, or office visit. You should shop the price and accessibility in advance so that you are not desperate when a health issue arises. An alternative is to identify a doctor hotline to call in an emergency.”
- How does the patient know if he/she can afford care and what is the best way to pay?
“When you make an appointment with a new doctor, ask what the cash price for your initial visit will be and ask to compare it to the discounted price your insurance company has negotiated. You may need to speak to the billing office or the office manager to find this out. A common answer is that it depends on the complexity of your problem. When you hear this ask, ‘can you give me a range from a routine to a complex visit? Can you also tell me what my insurance allows?’ If you have the temperament, you can also try to negotiate a cash price. If you are treated poorly or they refuse to give you this information, find another doctor.”
- What should a new patient expect on their initial visit?
“When you first arrive, you will be greeted by a receptionist and given multiple forms to complete in the waiting room. Make sure when you come to the ‘consent for treatment’ form you are not agreeing to any test the doctor orders, but you reserve the right to accept or refuse any test in advance. Then you will be escorted to a room where a medical assistant will record your symptoms, take your vital signs and depending on the doctor’s specialty might wish to perform ‘routine’ tests. You can feel free to question the reason for these tests and have a perfect right to refuse them if you do not understand.”
- So, some tests are not really needed?
“Precisely. But it is not because anyone is being dishonest. According to a study in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine, the top two reasons doctors ordered tests was fear of missing something that would help them diagnose their patients, and protection against malpractice. The authors of that survey also say that nearly all of the emergency room doctors—97%—admitted to personally ordering unnecessary imaging tests.”
- It’s easy for people to be intimidated by their doctor and not be keen to pose questions. So, to help get us started what should we ask?
“You can ask how the doctor arrived at the diagnosis. You can ask if doing any of the tests ordered will affect his treatment plan and are there alternative ways of arriving at the diagnosis. You can ask about the prognosis and what to expect from treatment including possible side effects and what to expect if the condition is untreated. At the end, send yourself another text when the doctor leaves the room. This will document the time the doctor spent with you and this information can be useful to be sure you are not overcharged, your time with the doctor was adequate and a good value.”
- I know my primary care doctor has some lab testing capability in his office and others also have x-ray machines. The convenience notwithstanding, are we obligated to do the tests where the doctor sends us?
“No. There is no need to get testing done at the doctor’s office
or at a facility recommended by the doctor. These prices are almost always better at an independent facility and are usually much better than the insurance company discounted price. Your objective is to be as healthy as possible. But no one should have to go broke in the process.”
More Than Just Another Doctor
A primary care physician is more than just a doctor. Over time, he or she learns the nuances of their patients’ medical history, reaction to medications, health goals, lifestyle, treatment preferences and whether or not a caregiver is supporting you in managing the individual’s health. Nothing is more personal. Paying for it is also personal. The time to check prices and ask questions is early in the process of selecting a doctor, not when arriving in an emergency room. Remember too that those who have a regular or primary care physician will be in better shape because of it.
Listen to the over 50 episodes of the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast on the website, which is www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org. Plus, there is lots of other information associated with those podcasts and news coverage about Dr. Goldstein and the work he does with the Houston Healthcare Initiative.
The Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast with Dr. Steven Goldstein is an information vehicle for people who want to know all medical options for themselves and are interested in reforming the healthcare industry. To learn more about the Houston Healthcare Initiative please visit www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org.