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Doc Shopping? Some Things to Consider First

Americans surveyed said selecting a physician ranks second only to selecting a spouse. (Photo courtesy iStockPhoto)

As the start of cold and flu season swings into gear, you may find yourself heading to the doctor a little more than usual in the coming months. And while things like insurance coverage is important, a recent study of more than 7,700 Americans conducted by, a site dedicated to helping consumers find medical professionals in their area, found that the average adult spends more time researching cars and refrigerators than their healthcare providers. In addition, over 50 percent of those asked said they felt that they had made the wrong choice in the past when selecting a doctor or hospital. Whoa! Archelle Georgiou, MD and former medical officer at United Health chatted with us about why this survey is so shocking and what you can do to make the right choice for your upcoming doctor visits.

What was the most shocking about this survey?

Aside from the fact that people spend more time researching appliances and their cell phone plans than the hospitals they are going to receive care at, it was surprising how many people looked at convenience first. Obviously insurance and payment for an appointment is an important piece, but convenience in terms of location does not equal quality. In the study, consumers said a hospital’s location is just as important as its mortality rate, 83 percent said it was important and 87 percent said it was very important!

What are some things to keep in mind if someone is looking for a new doctor or hospital?

First do your research as the consumer,  before you become the patient. Look at a site like and read doctor reviews so you can get a sense of what they are all about. Let’s say you need knee surgery: You’re going to want a board-certified surgeon who specializes in knee surgeries, not just a general surgeon who dabbles in everything. Things like this make a difference with your outcome and recovery.

You also should schedule time to talk to your doctor about your choices. Doctors often admit patients at multiple hospitals, because they have several affiliations. Looking at a hospital profile is just as important and researching the doctor, because while the doctor may be the one operating on you, you also want a skilled team that is going to take care of you when you are recovering.

What are some signs a doctor is not the right choice for you?

The most important thing is their skills and qualifications. Especially for surgeries, having that board certification is critical. It’s the only thing that signifies a certain level of competence. All MD students go through school, internships and residencies, but passing your boards shows that they have attained a higher level of skill. If you have a particular condition, make sure the doctor’s sub-specialty isn’t the larger specialty. For example, if you need foot surgery you want an orthopedic surgeon who has a sub-specialty in the area that you need treatment. And of course, consider other people’s ratings of the doctor. There are a ton of great surgeons who have terrible bedside manners, so that’s a factor you may need to think about. They might be a good fit for your surgery, but probably not for your OB/GYN or family practitioner.

Visit to see the entire study: American Hospital Quality Outcomes 2013.

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