By Trudie Mitschang
For much of my life, I never gave much thought to choosing doctors. Often I simply picked a name at random from an insurance directory. But, when I suddenly found myself suffering from mysterious pelvic pain 10 years ago, I quickly discovered that finding a physician who could provide an accurate diagnosis was not just difficult, it was next to impossible. Over the next two years, I was misdiagnosed half a dozen times - I had everything from Lupus to run-of-the-mill stress. At a loss, a few doctors deduced it was “all in my head.”
Stubborn by nature, I persevered, eventually meeting a doctor who did more than listen - he actually heard me. Better still, he took action, swiftly diagnosing my disorder and sending me to a colleague who fixed it. Why, I wondered, had so many other doctors missed what he identified so easily? Was he just a better doctor? Maybe. But I think the lesson for me was that when it comes to my body and health, I will always have to be my own advocate. If a diagnosis doesn’t sit right, I’m not going to accept it. I know that many of our IG Living readers have come to the same conclusion.
So, when looking for a physician, how do you find your “medical match”? A hospital in Dallas, Texas, is currently offering a “speed dating” style program for physicians and patients, pairing new moms with prospective pediatricians. Of course, if you need a qualified neurologist or immunologist, speed dating may not be the best approach.
Back in the day when I was looking for a specialist, Web research wasn’t available (I found my match in the Yellow Pages!). Thankfully, you can now locate a doctor in your zip code at the click of a mouse. Some websites our readers have found helpful include:
• American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
• The Clinical Immunology Society
• American Academy of Neurology
• American College of Rheumatology
Another option is to visit support websites and ask other patients for referrals. Ask them what they like and don’t like about their doctor. Get specific.
Of course, once you find a candidate, you will likely spend most of your first consultation answering questions. What I learned from my experience is that in order to feel empowered, it’s helpful to come prepared with your own list of questions. Some good ones for IG patients to ask include:
• How many immunology or neuropathy patients does the doctor treat?
• How does the doctor feel about homecare or clinic infusions?
• Do they communicate via email?
• If you are hospitalized, will the doctor consult or come see you?
• How involved are they with insurance problems? Will they fight for
you or are you on your own?
In these days of impersonal medical groups, insurance bureaucracy and what I can only describe as a steady decline in patient-centered care, simply finding a good family doctor can be daunting; locating a specialist who understands IG-related issues can definitely feel overwhelming. Still, there are good - even great - physicians out there. The trick, obviously, is finding them.
How about you: Have you found your medical match? Tell us about your journey. What advice would you offer others?