How To Find A Doctor - Advice From Physicians
By Jennifer Smith / August, September, October 2012

Finding a new physician can be difficult. Determining whether a doctor is a good communicator with a nice bedside manner, while being an excellent practitioner, is even more challenging. But it is possible to find a doctor who will meet your needs.

Dr. Edna Tello, chair of Broward Health Coral Springs' Department of Pediatrics, is a mother of two who can relate to parents searching for a family physician. She suggests getting recommendations from family and friends. "If you have a family member who has had good experiences with a doctor, that is a good rule of thumb (to follow)," says Dr. Tello.

She adds that, if a physician is approachable and any question a patient asks is considered a good question, then you know you are on the right track. "Ask questions," says Dr. Tello. "Ask about vaccination schedules, breast feeding versus bottle feeding, and all the topics you see in the news. If you get a judgmental vibe or the doctor doesn't want to spend time explaining why something is important, that is a good indication of things to come."
Dr. David Perloff, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation at Broward Health, recommends knowing what type of doctor best suits the patient's personality. "If you're looking for a surgeon, I don't care whether he or she has a bedside manner," he says. "I choose my surgeons for their hands, judgment and quality. However, with a primary care doctor, personality is important. But, first, you have to decide what you like. Some people respond to a paternalistic physician. Others want someone who is outgoing and open."

While working with Broward Health Medical Center residents, Dr. Perloff constantly reinforces the importance of communication skills, particularly during patient interaction. "My job as a physician is forty percent knowing what to do and sixty percent getting the patient to believe in me, like me as a person, and believe I have their best interest at heart," he says. "If I'm the smartest physician who knows everything, yet my communication skills are so poor that I can't get the patient to do what he or she needs to do, I'm a completely ineffective physician."

Hospitals are also aware of the importance of a constructive bedside manner for positive patient outcomes. Dr. David Lessen, a hematologist/oncologist at Broward Health North, is involved in the review of the hospital's HCAHPS scores, which measure patients' perspectives on hospital care, including their experience with the physician team and other factors.

Dr. Lessen says, "What I've taken an interest in is how we're doing as physicians, now that we have data available to us. The relationship between the patient and the physician is of great importance to us. Not only are we concerned with our patients' physical well-being, but we are acknowledging the vital importance of a healthy patient-physician relationship."

He adds that hospitals are pursuing ways to assist their doctors in creating a positive patient experience, which includes a physician's willingness to sit down and spend time answering questions and educating patients. "Medicine is complex," says Dr. Lessen. "Sometimes, it's difficult to explain medical matters in a way that is understandable to those not in medicine. But a patient should leave an appointment with an understanding of what is wrong and what can be done to help get better."

All three doctors agree that patients have options. If patients are unsatisfied with the answers they are given or if their gut tells them something is off, they shouldn't be afraid to find a new physician who better fits their personal communication style. "If you don't click with a physician, don't hesitate to leave," says Dr. Perloff.

Jennifer Smith is a corporate communications specialist at Broward Health.

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