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7 Characteristics of a Good Doctor and How to Find One

Geri McClymont is passionate about living a healthy lifestyle. She is a medical interpreter for Spanish-speaking patients.

Finding a medical provider you trust and are comfortable with is well worth your time.

Finding a medical provider you trust and are comfortable with is well worth your time.

Be Prepared

I've heard it said that the best protection against negative doctor office visits is maintaining a healthy lifestyle so as to minimize your need to see a doctor.

Although most would agree that embracing a healthy lifestyle is important, at some point most of us will need to see a medical provider.

Many people have medical diseases or conditions that require them to see a medical provider regularly.

Some employers require their employees to have physical exams as part of the pre-employment screening process.

There are routine preventive screenings we're advised to have to help detect certain conditions, such as breast cancer and colorectal cancer, after we reach a certain age.

Add to this the curve balls life throws at us, such as being involved in an auto accident or being injured while playing sports.

Do yourself a favor and be prepared with the names of a few good medical providers!

What Are Characteristics of Good Doctors?

1. They take time to listen to you.

A good doctor is genuinely interested in what you have to say so that he knows how to best help you.

He listens to you attentively and respectfully and welcomes your questions.

He doesn't have his hand on the doorknob while he's talking with you, signaling that he has more important things to do and that he's ending the visit before it even started.

2. They speak patient-friendly language.

It matters to a good doctor that you understand what he says.

If he uses highly technical terminology – otherwise known as medical jargon – he follows it up by rephrasing it in words you can understand.

Great doctors will sometimes also use visuals in the form of pictures, photographs or models to better explain different concepts about the body, medical devices, and treatment options.

3. They don't rush to prescribe you medication.

A good doctor will ask about your lifestyle habits such as diet, exercise and sleep to help determine if changes in these factors may reduce or eliminate your need of medication.

He'll warn you of any potential side effects of medications he prescribes.

In addition, before prescribing new medication, he'll be aware of any other medications you're currently taking to make sure they're safe to take in conjunction with each other.

4. They offer you multiple treatment options.

When and if necessary, a good doctor will let you know about the various options available for treating your condition, and will inform you of the pros and cons of each treatment option.

He may also supply you with literature about your condition and treatment options or provide you with websites to better learn about these.

In addition, he may refer you to support groups to help you cope emotionally and psychologically with your diagnosis.

5. They don't mind when you take notes or ask questions.

A good doctor doesn't appear uncomfortable when you take notes or ask questions during your appointment.

If a doctor appears uneasy when you record his responses to your inquiries or when you jot down any information he gives you orally, that's usually a bad sign.

If he becomes defensive when you ask questions, especially if they're good questions and relevant to the purpose of your visit, consider that a red flag too.

Taking notes and asking questions during your office visit present you as an intelligent and educated patient who is proactive about his health. You should never feel like you have to apologize for this.

6. They answer all your questions.

A good doctor welcomes questions from his patients and will ask you if you have any questions about the nature of your visit before you leave his office.

In doing this, a good doctor is essentially indicating that he wants to know if there's anything else he can do to help you. This shows that he values you as a human being and validates you as a patient.

7. They're hard to book.

Once you have a few leads on good doctors, try booking an appointment with each of them. Allow their availability to help guide you.

The best doctors are often the hardest to book because they're in high demand by patients.

Be willing to wait at least several weeks to see a great doctor and once you find one, be sure to book him well in advance for any future office visits.

So how do you go about finding a doctor with these characteristics?

It pays to do your research to find a great doctor.

It pays to do your research to find a great doctor.

How to Find a Good Medical Provider

1. Talk to trusted family members and friends.

Word of mouth is hands down the best way to find a good medical professional. So talk to people you know and trust. Ask them if they have a doctor they see and who they can recommend to you for your particular need or condition.

Then ask them specifically why they recommend this doctor to you.

Their responses will at least give you a better idea as to whether or not what they consider to be positive qualities in a good doctor are consistent with the qualities you're looking for in one.

2. Use consumer review websites.

Consumer sites such as Angie’s List allow you to view patient reviews and comments on different medical providers in your area, and to find the highest ranked medical providers in your city.

In some cases, you need to be a member of these sites in order to view this information. There may be a membership fee, but it's usually low and well worth the investment.

Your membership will normally transfer (at no cost) if you move to a new city or state, although you may have to update your address in order to find medical providers in your new location.

Also, once you're a member, you too can leave feedback and rate providers based on your experiences with them, which is very helpful to other consumers who are also looking for good doctors.

3. Make sure they have a medical license and board certification.

Visit your state government or department of health website to verify that your medical provider has a license. These sites also provide information on disciplinary actions taken against physicians.

While all doctors must obtain a state license to provide medical care, they're not required to be board certified. A board-certified doctor has received training beyond what is required for a license, and his training is specific to an area of specialty such as pediatrics, cardiology, or neurology.

Make sure you understand what the the acronym (such as MD, DDS, or PA) behind a medical provider’s name stands for, and do your research to ensure that the provider actually has the education and training the acronym behind his name represents.

Consultation appointments are excellent opportunities to meet different health care providers in order to help you find a good fit. Some practices offer consultation appointments at no charge.

4. Consider seeing a physician assistant (PA) or a nurse practitioner (NP).

Physician assistants and nurse practitioners usually have fewer patients than doctors, so they have more time to fully assess you and have more in depth conversations with you about your health and health goals.

Although they have fewer years of training than doctors, their training is similar to that of doctors.

Like physicians, they can:

  • evaluate patients
  • order tests
  • diagnose conditions
  • create and manage treatment plans
  • write prescriptions

Patients who see NPs report a high level of satisfaction from the treatment they receive. In addition, patients who regularly see NPs have fewer emergency room visits and shorter hospital stays, which means lower out-of-pocket expenses.

If you're reluctant to entrust your care to a medical provider with less training than a physician, consider requesting a consultation appointment with a PA or NP at a reputable practice in your area. This will allow you to get to know the provider and to determine if he or she is a good fit for you. Let the office know your intentions; many medical providers offer consultation appointments at no charge.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

Question: Many doctors are now using physician assistants and nurse practitioners and you never actually see the doctor of the practice. This makes me feel uneasy and pushed aside. How do you choose a doctor if you don't ever see him?

Answer: My experience has been that physician assistants have fewer patients than doctors so they can take more time to listen, speak with you, and answer your questions. To my knowledge, physician assistants have medical training very similar to that of doctors, but they complete their training in less time than doctors do. While some may argue that this makes them less competent and knowledgeable than doctors, my personal experience has been much better with physician assistants than with doctors. My current medical provider is a PA, and I honestly wouldn't see anyone else. She always has time to listen and answer my questions, and I trust her completely. I can't say the same for many doctors I've seen. My advice is to find a medical practice in your area with a good reputation, preferably by word of mouth, and then to see at least one PA and doctor in that practice. This way you can compare your experiences with the different medical providers and decide who to stick with on a permanent basis. Some offices offer consultation appointments at no charge to you, so this is an excellent way to "interview" different providers in order to find a good fit for you.

© 2015 Geri McClymont


Geri McClymont (author) on January 15, 2016:

healthylife2: It is unfortunate that sometimes our options of medical providers is limited, depending on our specific circumstances. Yes, so true that sometimes we have to ask in order to get all the information we need. Thank you for your comments.

healthylife2 on January 14, 2016:

That was a very comprehensive article and an accurate one based upon my experience. Sometimes you have to accept some of the characteristics and decide which of those are most important depending upon how serious the medical issue is. Some doctors that are the best medically have a terrible bedside manner and don't like questions and don't present all options unless you ask.

Geri McClymont (author) on January 10, 2016:

Glenn, I agree that a few reviews on one consumer site may not accurately reflect the quality of the doctor. If the reviews for a doctor are consistent across several trusted consumer sites, that information is more reliable because you start to see a pattern. It is also important to look at the specific comments consumers make about the doctor. Some comments are vague while others are detailed and provide more information.

I think many times people are intimidated by doctors and/or blindly trust them. It is a great mistake. We should not take our health lightly or trust somebody with it lightly. I have been misdiagnosed several times. Thank goodness I had the sense to seek a second opinion each time.

Thank you for your feedback; your comments make for great topics for future articles.

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on January 09, 2016:

I have run into problems lately with the lack of good doctors. It seems they are getting worse. Your suggestion to use consumer review websites is a good one. I have used a couple of these sites to try to find a new ophthalmologist after Obamacare caused me to lose the one I had. But it is important to pay attention to how many reviews have been posted. If there are only one or two then it's not enough information to go by.

Your list of things to pay attention to is extremely useful. Many people don't think about the red flags that come up, and they keep going to doctors who literally waste their time.

As you said, it is very important to plan ahead and have a good doctor ready to go to when necessary.

Geri McClymont (author) on January 03, 2016:

Thanks for stopping by, Paula, and for your thoughtful comments. I feel very much the same way about taking time to find professionals for assistance in different areas of my life. Unfortunately, I have often learned the hard way. I've learned that it often takes considerable time and effort to find a good doctor, particularly if you are new in town and can't turn to anybody for a good reference. For this reason, I have found consumer review websites to be extremely helpful, and well worth the time and effort.

Suzie from Carson City on January 03, 2016:

Geri....As with most anything, I am very selective. I take time and effort to find a Dr., Dentist, Vet, lawyer, any person or professional that will be assisting me for any reason. I do not and will not turn my life, health and or major decisions over completely to anyone.

I am always up front and make it clear that I am consulting them for assistance to be my partner and source of help & information in managing my life. All of these people are mere human beings, not gods, not perfect. I do not blindly follow instructions without knowing exactly the reason and possible outcome.. Any ethical Dr. will not have a problem with an active and concerned patient who wants answers and perhaps alternatives.

There are numerous points to consider when looking for a "good" Dr or professional of any kind. You have covered this topic well. I think it is a matter of individual needs too. Good article. Peace, Paula

Geri McClymont (author) on January 03, 2016:

Thank you for your comments, word55, and my apologies for the delayed response. You make some good points and I appreciate your feedback.

Thank you for stopping by, Elsie. It seems that office visits are often very brief even in more urban areas, such as where I live. But living in a rural area, I imagine you don't have as many options in terms of medical providers. I'm glad you have a good doctor who is following up on your cancer, though, and who you feel comfortable talking to, which is so very important in your situation.

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on January 03, 2016:

My doctor isn't a good doctor, half of your points about a good doctor is true about mine.

These days you are lucky to get a doctor, they are very short of doctors especially in the rural area in NZ) and when you do, your appointment is fifteen minutes, talk about one problem, if there are more you need to make another appointment at $30 a pop you shouldn't need to make another appointment. I have cancer, ACC, the doctor that operated is a good doctor that is still following up on my case, I prefer him, can talk to him, he is by far a more approachable doctor than my own.

That's life it doesn't pay to grow old.

Al Wordlaw from Chicago on November 29, 2015:

Hi G, as much as it is important to have a great doctor, I try to do well enough on my own to stay away from him. I believe more in natural healing including weight loss. God has provided us with the essential foods to maintain proper nutrition naturally, but I'm still agreeable with you, at some point we may need a great doctor. Thank you for such a constructive and significant article.