October 29, 2014

Finding the Right Doctor for Your Family

YoungBoyJust as most of us go for regular haircuts, you’d expect that the vast majority of people would also be going for regular check-ups with their family doctor. But the reality couldn’t be further from the truth – in fact, a significant number of people don’t even have a family doctor to visit.

Consider this: more than 15 percent of Canadians aged 12 and older –around 4.6 million people[1] – do not have a regular family doctor. In the United States, the American Academy of Family Physicians projects the demand for primary care physicians will increase at least through the year 2020, however, the percentage of general practitioners has been declining dramatically[2].

This shines a spotlight on an important issue. Millions of North Americans who don’t have a primary care provider are, quite literally, gambling with their health. Family doctors help give patients access to the full resources of the health care system. They are the first point of contact for most health issues and provide a link to other medical services, including providing referrals for specialists, diagnostic tests (such as ultrasounds, MRIs and X-rays) and prescriptions for medications.

It’s clearly not hard to make a case for why it’s so important to connect you and your family with a general physician. If the very thought of finding a family doctor – let alone, the right doctor for your family – is daunting, here are some tips to ease your search.

  1. In Canada, you can start by checking with the College of Physicians and Surgeons in your province. Some provinces and territories also provide “find a doctor” directories. In the United States, check state-level medical associations, nursing associations and associations for physician assistants for referrals. Many health plans also have websites and/or customer service staff who may be able to help you.
  2. Try visiting your local community health centre or a walk-in clinic and ask about doctors accepting new patients. Even if a doctor is full, maybe you can be placed on a wait list.
  3. Your pharmacist may know about any new doctors that have moved into your community, so try speaking with them. You can also try asking your dentist, optometrist or another health care professional for a referral.
  4. Ask friends, neighbours and co-workers if they have a doctor they like, and ask if they can recommend you as a patient (if the doctor isn’t accepting new patients, ask to be added to their wait list).
  5. Ask the human resources department of your workplace for a referral.

Now that you’re armed with a few tools for locating a family physician, you might find yourself in the position of choosing between potential doctors. If this happens, here are a few questions to consider that will help you decide which doctor is right for you and your family.

Is the doctor part of a group where you can access another doctor if yours is unavailable?

  1. Is the doctor available for appointments outside of typical business hours? Are the hours provided convenient given your schedule?
  2. Is the doctor focused on disease treatment or wellness and prevention? Which approach suits you and your family best?
  3. Is the doctor’s communication style warm and friendly or more conservative and formal? Which style works best for you?
  4. Is the office staff friendly and helpful?

You can also try to get more information about a primary care physician by speaking with the doctor’s patients to help determine if a particular physician is the right fit for your family.

If you’re in the midst of finding a family doctor and need help with a medical issue, or even just general assistance navigating the health care system, always keep in mind that Best Doctors is here to help. And once you find the right doctor, Best Doctors is still here to guide you if you encounter any health challenges, or simply need extra support.

[1] Statistics Canada, http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2014001/article/14013-eng.htm
[2] American Academy of Family Physicians, http://www.aafp.org/about/policies/all/workforce-reform.html

YoungBoyJust as most of us go for regular haircuts, you’d expect that the vast majority of people would also be going for regular check-ups with their family doctor. But the reality couldn’t be further from the truth – in fact, a significant number of people don’t even have a family doctor to visit.

Consider this: more than 15 percent of Canadians aged 12 and older –around 4.6 million people[1] – do not have a regular family doctor. In the United States, the American Academy of Family Physicians projects the demand for primary care physicians will increase at least through the year 2020, however, the percentage of general practitioners has been declining dramatically[2].

This shines a spotlight on an important issue. Millions of North Americans who don’t have a primary care provider are, quite literally, gambling with their health. Family doctors help give patients access to the full resources of the health care system. They are the first point of contact for most health issues and provide a link to other medical services, including providing referrals for specialists, diagnostic tests (such as ultrasounds, MRIs and X-rays) and prescriptions for medications.

It’s clearly not hard to make a case for why it’s so important to connect you and your family with a general physician. If the very thought of finding a family doctor – let alone, the right doctor for your family – is daunting, here are some tips to ease your search.

  1. In Canada, you can start by checking with the College of Physicians and Surgeons in your province. Some provinces and territories also provide “find a doctor” directories. In the United States, check state-level medical associations, nursing associations and associations for physician assistants for referrals. Many health plans also have websites and/or customer service staff who may be able to help you.
  2. Try visiting your local community health centre or a walk-in clinic and ask about doctors accepting new patients. Even if a doctor is full, maybe you can be placed on a wait list.
  3. Your pharmacist may know about any new doctors that have moved into your community, so try speaking with them. You can also try asking your dentist, optometrist or another health care professional for a referral.
  4. Ask friends, neighbours and co-workers if they have a doctor they like, and ask if they can recommend you as a patient (if the doctor isn’t accepting new patients, ask to be added to their wait list).
  5. Ask the human resources department of your workplace for a referral.

Now that you’re armed with a few tools for locating a family physician, you might find yourself in the position of choosing between potential doctors. If this happens, here are a few questions to consider that will help you decide which doctor is right for you and your family.

Is the doctor part of a group where you can access another doctor if yours is unavailable?

  1. Is the doctor available for appointments outside of typical business hours? Are the hours provided convenient given your schedule?
  2. Is the doctor focused on disease treatment or wellness and prevention? Which approach suits you and your family best?
  3. Is the doctor’s communication style warm and friendly or more conservative and formal? Which style works best for you?
  4. Is the office staff friendly and helpful?

You can also try to get more information about a primary care physician by speaking with the doctor’s patients to help determine if a particular physician is the right fit for your family.

If you’re in the midst of finding a family doctor and need help with a medical issue, or even just general assistance navigating the health care system, always keep in mind that Best Doctors is here to help. And once you find the right doctor, Best Doctors is still here to guide you if you encounter any health challenges, or simply need extra support.

[1] Statistics Canada, http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2014001/article/14013-eng.htm
[2] American Academy of Family Physicians, http://www.aafp.org/about/policies/all/workforce-reform.html

September 03, 2014

How a Smartphone Selfie Could Save Your Life

A doctor gives you a diagnosis that you have a sneaking suspicion is off the mark. You feel unsettled, and then a light bulb goes off – why not use your smartphone to film your symptoms as they’re happening in real time?

Sure, this gives a whole new meaning to taking matters into your own hands, but it’s exactly this type of creative thinking that might have saved the life of one Canadian woman.

By now, you might have heard of Stacey Yepes, who had originally been misdiagnosed with stress after she experienced numbness in her face and had difficulty speaking. When her symptoms recurred a few days later, Yepes had the wherewithal to film herself with her smartphone. This video gone-viral, led doctors at a different hospital to conclude that Yepes had been in the throes of a mini-stroke, and they were able to treat her accordingly.

smartphone

While it’s a unique example, Yepes’ highly publicized case highlights the fact that we are often our own strongest health care advocates. It also underscores the important role that consumer technology can play in ensuring we get the right diagnosis and right treatment from health care professionals. In fact, in many ways, a smartphone selfie diagnosis seems like a natural extension of telemedicine.

These days, people are taking control of their health with digital tools, including health apps that allow us to do things like measure our heart rate, monitor our respiratory status (useful for asthma sufferers) and upload information from devices such as blood glucose monitors – this information can then be shared with our health care providers. There are also blood pressure monitors that can be connected to the Internet or video equipment, allowing for real-time interaction with health care professionals.

Home health monitoring is especially helpful for people with chronic diseases. Thanks to advances in consumer technology, we have easier access to medical care and advice than ever before.

But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t also exercise good judgment in how we use the plethora of technology available to us when it comes to managing our health. Social media comes to mind here – some people post pictures of physical ailments on Facebook, crowdsourcing a diagnosis from friends or even strangers. It’s not hard to imagine how such a misuse of technology and social media can end up having disastrous consequences.

Instead, we should take a page from Yepes’ experience, which perfectly illustrates how technology can enhance our ability to manage our own health. Her story is a reminder that the onus lies with us to be proactive, and if we suspect a diagnosis or treatment isn’t right, it might not be. The good news is that being proactive is becoming much easier with an ever-growing arsenal of tools available at our disposal, some of them even easily accessed from our back pocket.

A doctor gives you a diagnosis that you have a sneaking suspicion is off the mark. You feel unsettled, and then a light bulb goes off – why not use your smartphone to film your symptoms as they’re happening in real time?

Sure, this gives a whole new meaning to taking matters into your own hands, but it’s exactly this type of creative thinking that might have saved the life of one Canadian woman.

By now, you might have heard of Stacey Yepes, who had originally been misdiagnosed with stress after she experienced numbness in her face and had difficulty speaking. When her symptoms recurred a few days later, Yepes had the wherewithal to film herself with her smartphone. This video gone-viral, led doctors at a different hospital to conclude that Yepes had been in the throes of a mini-stroke, and they were able to treat her accordingly.

smartphone

While it’s a unique example, Yepes’ highly publicized case highlights the fact that we are often our own strongest health care advocates. It also underscores the important role that consumer technology can play in ensuring we get the right diagnosis and right treatment from health care professionals. In fact, in many ways, a smartphone selfie diagnosis seems like a natural extension of telemedicine.

These days, people are taking control of their health with digital tools, including health apps that allow us to do things like measure our heart rate, monitor our respiratory status (useful for asthma sufferers) and upload information from devices such as blood glucose monitors – this information can then be shared with our health care providers. There are also blood pressure monitors that can be connected to the Internet or video equipment, allowing for real-time interaction with health care professionals.

Home health monitoring is especially helpful for people with chronic diseases. Thanks to advances in consumer technology, we have easier access to medical care and advice than ever before.

But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t also exercise good judgment in how we use the plethora of technology available to us when it comes to managing our health. Social media comes to mind here – some people post pictures of physical ailments on Facebook, crowdsourcing a diagnosis from friends or even strangers. It’s not hard to imagine how such a misuse of technology and social media can end up having disastrous consequences.

Instead, we should take a page from Yepes’ experience, which perfectly illustrates how technology can enhance our ability to manage our own health. Her story is a reminder that the onus lies with us to be proactive, and if we suspect a diagnosis or treatment isn’t right, it might not be. The good news is that being proactive is becoming much easier with an ever-growing arsenal of tools available at our disposal, some of them even easily accessed from our back pocket.