Building the care team that aligns with your health philosophy is a crucial step toward optimal health.
It is also an important way to insure the right approach will be taken if you encounter an emergency. The configuration of your care team is personal and purely dependent on your goals and needs.
First, define your health goals.
Maybe you recently found out you have genetic tendencies for a chronic disease you wish to prevent like diabetes or heart disease. You may be in the throws of something more acute like cancer or a degenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s and you are looking for the best way to treat your symptoms and stop or slow the progression. Whatever your needs are, they are personal to your situation and your desired outcomes. Your team may have an internal medicine physician as your primary provider and be rounded out by a registered dietician and acupuncturist or a family practice physician may be the captain of a team made up of a neurologist and a chiropractor. It all depends on your philosophy, needs, and goals.
Do your research.
It can be difficult to find accurate and reliable information on the quality of the care provided by health professionals. Many internet based resources are dependant on patient feedback and there can be little if any feedback shared. Often, if people are pleased with the care they are receiving, they simply aren’t seeking out a website to share that information. Another consideration is that many “Top Doc” designations are based on providers paying to be on a resource list and it’s not an indication of quality. Some options available are to check your state health licensing boards where you will likely find out if a provider has been disciplined. However, it usually won’t list if there have been complaints made against a health provider or if he or she has been the subject of a malpractice law suit. If you happen to have friends or relatives who are healthcare professionals ask for their opinion. Chances are they will have some insight into who they would choose as their provider based on their experience with local health professionals. If you do hear negative feedback about a physician ask what it is based on. Sometimes it has nothing to do with the quality of care and can simply be a personality trait that is an issue for them but wouldn’t be significant for you.
It may sound strange but it’s acceptable to have a conversation with a provider prior to inviting them to be a member of your care team. It’s an important role as your life may depend on their decisions so why wouldn’t you at the very least have a conversation about what your goals, philosophies and needs are. Would you hire a childcare provider simply because they lived next door without ever meeting them or even hire someone to remodel your kitchen without first at the very least, seeing an example of their work? Talk to the professional to whom you are entrusting your health. You may discover your philosophies regarding medications or alternative therapies don’t align with their strongly held treatment beliefs. It doesn’t mean they are wrong, it just means they may not be the best fit for you and you don’t want to find that out in the midst of a crisis. If a provider isn’t willing to at the very least have a 10-15 minute conversation with you, it’s likely an indication they aren’t right for your care team.
Designate a health liaison or proxy.
Even if your goals are simply to maintain optimal health and you are not currently battling an acute or chronic illness it’s important to have a trusted friend, family member or professional advocate as an extra set of eyes and ears if it is needed. Unfortunately, an unexpected potential health crisis can occur out of nowhere and even an experienced health care professional who finds him or herself in the role of patient, will likely be overwhelmed in such a situation. It’s important to designate someone you trust to be in that role in case the need arises. Think carefully about who you know and trust who is organized, patient and supportive. Have a conversation with them and see if they are willing to fill this important role in your care team. There are also professional advocacy services that offer virtual consultations to help you navigate a crisis or create a roadmap to optimal wellbeing.