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Firing a doctor can lead to better health

There may come a time when it's necessary to fire a doctor to achieve your best health.

The right doctor may not be the convenient one five minutes down the road from your home. It may not be the one that everyone else thinks is the best in town. Having a feeling of solid trust in your doctor is what is important.

For those who have a specific, recurring condition, it is typically a quality specialty network that is the key to the best possible health. Not all medical groups are created equal when it comes to specialty connections. As a matter of fact, many groups have sub-par networks.

A person should always feel that the precious minutes they spend at a doctor's visit is one of the best investments of their time and money. A patient should feel that they are being listened to and that recommendations by their physician are thoroughly discussed, with time for questions and answers.

Unfortunately, many patients with chronic conditions feel they have been "gaslighted" by one or more physicians. Gaslighting is a phrase that, at its worst, is when one individual tries to make another individual think they are imagining something or that it "is in their head" and doesn't really exist. In medical circles, it seems to happen more with conditions that physicians know are difficult, but possible, to diagnose; when a physician just doesn't understand the condition that well or one that the doctor doesn't want to take their medical group's time and financial resources to address and find manageable solutions for.

These complaints are heard all the time – people suffering from recurring migraine headaches, yet their primary medical care group won't refer them to a neurologist for more innovative help; a patient suffering from what they think is fibromyalgia but a doctor said that's not a "real" condition or an individual feeling they have overwhelming fatigue constantly, yet chronic fatigue syndrome is never mentioned or referred out for specialized care.

The reality is that many doctors have been "fired" by patients over a lack of help with migraine headaches. The same has been the case with fibromyalgia patients and chronic fatigue sufferers. After taking better control of their health care, many said, "One of the best decisions I ever made was to leave my previous doctor/medical group."

Whether an individual has an HMO or PPO insurance, change is available. Sometimes the answer is as simple as seeing a different doctor in a medical group. In other cases, it is necessary to drop one's current medical group and go with another primary care network for better access to quality care where the patient is truly put first. In some more complex situations, it may mean the patient needs to change their health care insurance to a different type with more to offer.

Patients should be their own advocate. Those who feel they are being gaslighted are in need of a new doctor. There are doctors who are adept at helping sufferers of migraines, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. In some situations, while there are no miracle cures, the right doctor can help minimize the discomforts.

North County resident Judy Giuliano is a lifelong myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome sufferer who has been down this road.

"ME/CFS is not always (in fact, rarely) accepted as a real diagnosis and people with the disease are often gaslighted by their doctors," she said. "The complexity of the disease and the very realness of it destroys lives."

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine have provided diagnostic criteria, "patients are [still being] ignored and/or passed over to psychiatric care," she said. "ME/CFS is complex and difficult to diagnose and can only be treated symptomatically."

Being proactive about her health, Giuliano said in her experience it's common for "doctors and specialists to not agree with each other and therefore downplay the possibilities" when it comes to helping manage and treat various medical conditions.

Parisa Vidafar, Ph.D., a medical researcher at the University of Michigan, summarized it best in a recent interview when she said, "You are your own best doctor, (because) you are in your body 24/7. If your doctor isn't giving you answers, it's probably a good time to find another physician, because in that relationship you are essentially putting your life in someone else's hands."

There are three steps to changing doctors and/or medical groups.

Step 1 – Call your insurance company and gain a better understanding of what your current health care plan offers in terms of different primary care groups that you can choose from. Usually, an online list is available so you can begin your research on possibilities. If you have a specific, challenging condition, don't hesitate to start with a specialist and work your way backward to a primary care group that refers out to that individual.

Step 2 – Put in research time on medical group websites. Carefully read about different physicians' backgrounds - education, special areas of interest, specialties, research project involvements, awards and involvements such as boards and societies. If your health condition has a lot of studies associated with it, check out Google Scholar – see if any specialists in your area have been on a research team or are published regarding the condition. These are the physicians that know the latest in treatments and about medications and therapies currently in the development pipeline.

Caution: Be cautious of social media site reviews. Positive or negative, they allow people to anonymously complain or comment about physicians. It happens that sometimes negative comments are purposely posted to drive business away from a competitor. While some people have valid complaints, social media are not reliable sources for researching doctors. Based on hard research and accomplishments, find the most qualified doctor and meet them in person to see how you feel when interacting with them.

Step 3 – Call the doctor offices you're interested in and make sure all the pieces fit together. Verify your insurance is accepted, check the anticipated co-pays and set up an initial consultation with each doctor on your list of candidates.

The best person to gauge ability, skill, and compassion of a doctor is you. Your health care provider plays a huge part in your well-being. It is worth the time, energy and dedication to find the right doctor.

Shelby Ramsey is the author of the blog, http://thehonestmigraine.com, which also features interviews with patients and medical experts.

 

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