Finding the right healthcare practitioner can be challenging. It is hard enough to find a medical doctor these days who is even accepting new patients! Aside from someone local, whose hours work with your schedule, and who you don’t have to wait two years to see, one of the most important things in your journey towards better health is to have a practitioner who you can trust and who supports you. Whether they are a medical doctor, specialist, naturopathic doctor, or another member of your healthcare team, I believe the following are the most important things to look for when finding yourself a healthcare practitioner.
1. Is open to collaboration
Most of the population these days doesn’t have just one healthcare provider. It’s so great to have multiple professionals on your team to be able to provide service in different areas of expertise! With many different healthcare providers come many different treatments, prescriptions, and other recommendations. In order to ensure everything works safely, effectively, and is not redundant, it is important for all of your healthcare providers to be open to collaborating with each other. If one of your doctors refuses to release your records to another doctor (with your consent), this is a red flag in my books!
2. Isn’t afraid to admit they don’t know something
Of course you want your doctor to be knowledgeable regarding your health concerns; however, they can’t be expected to know everything. That being said, when your doctor doesn’t know the answer, they should be open to getting you that information (or referring you to someone else who does). Admitting they do not know the answer, but being committed to finding out for you, shows a great deal of maturity, humbleness, and dedication to your health – qualities you definitely want in a healthcare provider.
3. Answers your questions
While many of you may be used to answering your doctor’s questions about your symptoms, don’t forget you should also be asking questions when you need clarification. Yes, sometimes it may require a second visit if there is a lot to go over; however, you should never feel like your doctor does not have the time to answer you. Telling you to “Google” the answer to one of your questions should never be the answer. Dr. Google (and random internet forums) can be full of false and scary information.
4. Listens to your concerns
It is fairly standard these days to only be able to bring one or two concerns to your medical doctor at each visit. Many doctors these days are very overworked and can only spend a limited time with each patient. That being said, you should feel like your doctor at least takes the time to listen to you during the time you are there. If you do have more complex questions or concerns, consider having a Naturopathic Doctor or other non-OHIP covered practitioner on your healthcare team to be able to spend more time with you to put together your health puzzle.
5. Provides informed consent
This is actually something that is required for healthcare providers to go over with patients; however, many do not do the best job. To ensure you truly understand the treatment you will be receiving, always ensure your doctor explains the indication, dose, duration, possible side effects, and risks versus benefits of the treatment, as well as potential outcomes if you choose not to take the treatment. If they are unwilling to explain these to you (especially possible side effects), you may want to consider finding a practitioner who takes the time to ensure you are informed about any treatments you are given.
If your practitioner is able to meet all of the above characteristics, you’ve hit the jackpot! However, if they don’t, you may want to consider asking friends, family, or colleagues if they have any recommendations for you. Finally, it is important to remember that sometimes two people just don’t mesh well. If you ever feel as if you do not get along with your healthcare practitioner, do not hesitate to find a new one.
Megan Boucher is a recent graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and is currently in the final steps of becoming registered to be a Naturopathic Doctor. Once registered, Megan will be practicing full-time at Cornerstone Health Centre in Georgetown, Ontario. While she isn’t working, you can probably find Megan enjoying a hike outside, baking healthy treats, or cozying up with a warm cup of coffee and a good book.