12 Questions Empowered Patients Should Ask When Looking For A New Physician…Are You Ready?

[tweetmeme source=”Healthmessaging” only_single=false]Conventional wisdom tells people that when looking for a new physician they need to consider things like Specialty, Board Certification, years in practice and geographic proximity.   Online services like Health Grades allow you to see compare the satisfaction scores for prospective physician candidates.

But industry insiders know different.  Consider those patient satisfaction scores for physicians.   In reality, “one can assume that the quality of care is actually worse than surveys of patient satisfaction would seem to show,” according to a 1991 lecture by the sage Avedis Donabedian, MD.

“Often patients are, in fact, overly patient; they put up with unnecessary discomforts and grant their doctors the benefit of every doubt, until deficiencies in care are too manifest to be overlooked.”

Given the constant drumbeat about the lack of care coordination and medical errors, it would seem that that some people (patients) are beginning to reach that breaking point alluded to by Dr. Donabedian.   The empowered among us are starting to compare physicians (and the hospitals that own employ them) to a higher standard.  A higher standard that reflects the nature and quality of the medical services physicians actually provide.

Empowered patients today are “being taught to be less patient, more critical, and more assertive.”  In Donbedian’s own words, “patients are justified…in suspecting that the practitioner who has been cursory, inattentive, uninformative, or even rude has not marshaled the full potential of technical skills on their behalf. ”

So how might an empowered health consumer go about finding a new physician these days?

Here’s a list of 12 evidence-based questions that every patient should ask prospective physicians:

  1. How would you describe your communication style?
  2. How do you inform patients of lab test results?
  3. How long after you get your lab results before I can expect to be notified?
  4. What percent of your adult patients have had their recommended preventive screenings?
  5. Will you take the time to understand and respect my beliefs and opinions about my health and communication preferences?
  6. What percent of your patients are non-compliant with respect to taking their medications or otherwise following treatment recommendations?
  7. If I need to hospitalized, who would my doctor be? You or some hospitalist?
  8. What safeguards do you have in place to prevent communication hand-off errors should I be hospitalized or seen in the ER?
  9. How do you feel about my bringing a friend or spouse to my visit?
  10. Do you encourage patients to ask you about health information they have found on the Internet?
  11. For patients needing additional information, do you have a list of recommend websites you can give me?
  12. Will I get a written post visit report summarizing what occurred at each office visit, including medication and self care instructions?

Original work of the author – Steve Wilkins MPH

So if you are a self-satisfied hospital administrator patting yourself on the back because of your high patient satisfaction scores (with your physician-owned practices) watch out.  There are hospitals and physicians across town that “get” what empowered health consumers want…and one day soon they are probably going to eat your lunch.


Donabedian, A., Quality assurance in health care: consumers’ role.  The Lichfield Lecture. Quality in Health Care 1992;1:247-251


2 responses to “12 Questions Empowered Patients Should Ask When Looking For A New Physician…Are You Ready?

  1. Excellent questions for any provider. I will adapt them to our provider self survey if you don’t mind.

    As you and most of your readers likely know, traditional provider reviews are made on a barbell distribution where people only comment on the very good or the very bad. The vast majority of experiences with sufferable mediocrity are not sufficiently annoying to bother posting about. Even the Ob/Gyn who never bothers to meet with her new patient until the third visit is considered “outstanding” on vitals and healthgrades. Amazing.

    Providers consider traditional reviews a joke because they can so easily be manipulated by motivated second and third tier providers and most patients are not sufficiently knowledgeable nor demanding to be able to judge what great care is. You are right, insiders do. On the other hand, everyone deserves great customer service and knows what it is. Just because we are ill does not mean that we don;’t deserve to be treated with respect and care. Personally, I believe it is a problem with the payment system that expects providers like my wife to see 100 patients a week.

    These, among other problems with healthcare sites, are among the problems we are trying to solve with FairCareMD, the new online healthcare marketplace where patients can shop for care based on service offerings, quality, price, and OSVRs. OSVRs are Offer Specific Verified Reviews which are by verified actual patients who have paid for specific contracted services that they are then allowed to review. This rebuilds trust in the online review system and allows reviews for specific services. We are Launching in New York City next week but to preview the system please visit http://www.FairCareMD.com today. Request the care you need at a price you are ready to pay directly for and we will find it for you. Reverse concierge medicine, at your service. We hope you like it!

  2. Pingback: 12 Questions Empowered Patients Should Ask When Looking For A New Physician…Are You Ready? | patient engaged | Scoop.it

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s