Choosing a physician can be a very daunting task, trust me I know! I’d like to offer some advice as an insider and I’ll dispel some myths while I am it!
A few years ago I was seeing a patient who had obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) who wanted a referral to a sleep apnea surgeon and asked me who I thought was the very best for the procedure. I gave the patient the surgeon’s name and mentioned that they list their email address on their website so to feel free to contact directly with questions.
When I saw the patient in follow up he said it bothered him that when he contacted the surgeon and he got such a quick response. He felt the surgeon must not be in high demand.
In reality, his conclusions couldn’t be further from the truth. The surgeon is one of the top sleep apnea surgeons in the world with top notch training and an impeccable track record. When this happened I was stunned because I had always thought it was so impressive how open this surgeon was and to me it was a testament to his dedication and accountability in doing the best job.
Unfortunately, myths like this are perpetuated by other factors such as academic titles, research publications, or even social media following. None of these things can predict the competence of a physician. So what does?
One of the attending physicians here I trained used to say the best physicians have the three A’s.
- Ability: An exceptional physician will have a great skill set. For example, in my field of sleep medicine, the physician would be able to treat more than just sleep apnea.
- Affability: An exceptional physician should be approachable, friendly, and warm to create a feeling of trust with vulnerable information.
- Availability: An exceptional physician is available to their patients. No matter how busy, successful, or important a physician is, if they are exceptional, they will be easily reachable by their patients. I cannot emphasize this enough! If you cannot get a call back from your physician that is a red flag, period.
What traits do you think make the most exceptional physician?