When you are experiencing symptoms and know that something is wrong, do you settle with the first doctor you meet?

Like many other patients, do you also think that doctors know everything so you should believe and simply follow everything they say?

At Ben’s Friends, one of the things we always encourage our members to do is to advocate for their own health. Since many of our members deal with rare diseases, they often encounter medical practitioners who know very little about their condition.

So instead of just being recipients of care, patients should consider themselves as part of the care team. After all, they are the ones who experience the symptoms and doctors won’t be able to diagnose or treat their illness without the patient’s inputs.

We also consider doctors as professionals that we hire to cure or treat our disease. Therefore, patients can and should choose who they want to care for them. 

Below are seven things to look for when choosing a doctor: 

1. Someone who believes your symptoms

It is a very common experience among patients of rare diseases to be told by their doctor that the symptoms are all in their head since not many doctors are familiar with the illness. The problem is when they dismiss your symptoms, there’s a tendency for them to misdiagnose and give the wrong prescription. 

When looking for a doctor, it is very important that they believe your symptoms are real. Not only will you feel validated, but this is a very important element in finding out and addressing the root cause of your symptoms. 

2. Listens to what you have to say

When you’re sick, it is normal for you to want to know all the important information. This includes details like how you could possibly have acquired the illness, activities that aggravate your symptoms, and clarifying unclear terms and instructions. 

You may also want to tell your doctor everything that you think they should know in order to help you improve your condition.

Having a doctor who listens to you and answers your questions clearly and patiently not only helps you have a good relationship but it could also bring positive results in relation to your condition. 

3. An expert or willing to learn about your illness

Ideally, the doctor you’d like to have is an expert in treating the illness you are affected with. This is not always the case, however, especially when you have a rare disease. 

You might have checked a lot of rosters and asked fellow patients for recommendations but still couldn’t find one doctor who is extremely familiar with your disease. 

In this case, you might want to look for a doctor who is really interested and willing to learn about your illness. 

4. Makes you feel comfortable

When you have an illness, you just want to get things over with, with little or no friction at all. Maybe the last thing you would want to come across is a doctor who is difficult to deal with. 

Although it is unfortunate, there are definitely some doctors who seem rude and show no regard to how their patients feel. Having this kind of doctor, especially if you have a chronic illness, can make things very unpleasant for you. 

You might instead want to find someone who shows you respect and is mindful of the things that might make you feel uncomfortable. 

5. Someone you trust

Having faith in your doctor can definitely have a huge impact on the way your treatment would turn out. 

Whether you need a surgeon for a risky procedure or a rheumatologist to treat your pain, find someone you trust completely. If there’s anything that makes you doubt their abilities, it is better to keep on looking until you find the doctor who feels right for you. 

6. Has a treatment plan for you

Most of the time, especially when you have a chronic illness, your doctor will have to try different forms of treatment before finding one that works for you. 

It might take a while before you can determine whether a certain medication or treatment is working or not so it is possible for you to feel frustrated and wonder if you’re on the right track. 

It is therefore very important to find out your doctor’s treatment plan for you. They might give you details like which medications they want to try first as well as the reasons for their choice. This also helps make you feel at ease, knowing that they actually know what they are doing. 

7. Exhibits team work

Many patients require a team of doctors to effectively treat their illness. In such a case, it is very important that all of the members of your care team can work well together.  This will help ensure that all the areas of your condition will be properly treated.

Always remember that you have a big role to play in the success of your treatment. Patients are not simply recipients of care. They should be the number one advocate for their own health. And one way to do this is by carefully selecting the doctor or team of doctors they would hire to treat them.