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Finding a new doctor in ’09


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To celebrate the launch of Precision Nutrition V3, over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing with you some important “big ideas” from V3, the most complete version of the Precision Nutrition System we’ve ever offered.

Today’s “big idea”: Choosing the right doctor.

While I’m called “Doctor Berardi” by some, I don’t have an MD nor do I pretend to.  As a result, I try to steer clear of medical recommendations and stick with exercise and nutritional suggestions.  However, the more clients I work with, the more I realize that the level of care some of you are receiving is abysmal.

Now, I know most facets of the medical system are understaffed and underfunded.  But that’s not what I’m talking about today.  Rather, it’s the interactions you’re having with your docs.  It’s the poor communication, the short cut assessments, the flawed diagnostic procedures, and the poor follow-up.

The PN Measurement Guide
The PN Measurement Guide

When your doc isn’t right for you

Take this example. On pages 29 and 30 of the Precision Nutrition Measurement Guide we list a number of blood tests that you should have done every few years to ensure that you’re in good health.  These tests include standard blood chemistry profiles, kidney and liver function tests, basic hormonal panels, comprehensive cardiovascular risk profiles, carbohydrate/insulin sensitivity profiles, and a few more.  All standard stuff that anyone who’s interested in monitoring their health and preventing age-related problems should have done every coupla years.

No surprise, armed with this information and excited to get proactive about their health, many of our clients and customers march right in to their docs to have these tests done.  And what happens?  Well, some of them have a great experience.  Their doc works with them to collect these measures, discusses what the results mean, and offers suggestions to ensure that the blood levels stay in check.

But that’s not what always happens.  Rather, sometimes they’re met with resistance and/or flat out refusal of care.  Other times, the docs will agree to run the tests but then refuse to give them access to the results once collected.  And, most common, and perhaps scariest of all, even if the doc runs the tests and shares the results, they don’t know what all the tests mean, how to interpret them, or what to do if one of them is out of wack.

Sigh.

These last few disturbing experiences aren’t necessarily the norm.  However, I’ve heard these frequently enough to realize something is amis.  But rather than railing against the medical system, there’s one thing I can do right now for myself and my family.  So can you.  Switch docs.

If your physician is one of those nightmarish ones above, find a new physician.  Pronto.  Before – god forbid – something really bad happens and you’re stuck trusting someone like this with your life.

Paging Charles Darwin

Now I’ve heard about a million and one excuses for why people don’t shop for new physicians.  But the real reason is this.  In our society we’re taught that switching docs isn’t something that’s in our best interest.  Which is supremely ironic, in my opinion.

You see, we’re conditioned to constantly look for better deals and better service when it comes to meaningless stuff.  Like cell phone companies, home phone providers, internet service providers, and cable service providers.  I know this first hand.  I’m the guy who wastes hours comparing rates and switching companies when a better offer comes along.  And I know many of you do this too.

Yet when it comes to our health, we’re taught to take a much more passive position. We pick some doc out of the phone book, who’s on our route to work, who’s close to our house, or who our brother-in-law recommends.  And we stick with them for the long haul.  Never really questioning what their competency is.  Never leaving even if they aren’t providing a reasonable or acceptable level of care.

Perhaps we should all be given a Darwin Award for this type of silly behavior.  Come on folks, get with the program.  Skip this month’s call to Bell and instead take a few minutes to think about your health care.

I feel ya’ – but I’m not sick

Now, if you’re reading this article, chances are you’re a believer in preventative medicine.  And, as a result, you don’t feel like you need to make many doctors appointments.  But that’s where us preventative folks can take a lesson.  Waiting until you’re sick to go to the doctor pretty well guarantees that your appointment will be too late.

If you’re into preventative medicine, you should be the first one booking appointments with your doc every year or every other year.  Not for treatment.  But for assessment.  To make sure things are in good working order.  Before it’s too late and something actually goes wrong with you.

If your doc’s not friendly to that, it’s time to kick ’em to the curb and find someone new.

Tips for finding a doc

There are quite a few good articles on the web that offer suggestions for finding a good doc.  Their suggestions include the following for beginning your search:

  • Ask family and friends for recommendations
  • Contact a local medical referral service (many cities have one)
  • Browse the yellow pages
  • Do an online web search
  • Contact the American Medical Association
  • Find the best hospital and look there

Then, once you find a few docs that make your list, the next steps are to:

  • Check credentials and history of malpractice
  • Have a private interview and see which doc’s philosophy best matches yours
  • Give the one you feel most comfortable with a trial period and if it goes well, keep them

These are all pretty good, common sense tips.  However, I’d offer up a couple of additional strategies, strategies based on my years of working with a wide variety of health professionals in my network.

  • Don’t limit your search to MDs.
    Don’t get me wrong,  I’ve worked with some incredible MDs.  But I’ve also worked with some amazing Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DOs), Naturopathic Doctors (NDs), and Chiropractors over the years.  When competent and well-trained, these types of individuals can offer exceptional preventative care as well as illness care, care that can rival the work of any MD.  So definitely look into the strengths and weaknesses of choosing each of the above as your primary care provider.  You may eventually need specialists for certain issues.  But for your first line of care, MDs, DOs, NDs, and Chiros can all be good choices based on your own circumstances.
  • Ask for referrals at local health and fitness establishments.
    Sure, some of the employees at your local health food store might be scary.  However, if you talk to as many natural health and fitness workers as possible in your area, you’re likely to be referred to docs that are into preventative medicine and understand your needs as an exerciser.  You might talk to people at local gyms, at health food stores, at chiropractic clinics, and more.  You could even contact local sports teams to see which docs they use.  In the end, asking family and friends who they use is ok.  But what if they don’t exercise?  What if they’re not into preventative medicine?  You might not be happy with their referral.  So start looking in the places where people like you hang out, places where people like you get their advice.
  • Be sure your doc has a wide network.
    I include strength coaches, other nutrition coaches, MDs, DOs, naturopaths, chiropractors, psychologists, and more in my treatment network for a reason.  When a client comes to me with a problem I don’t exactly know how to address, I can get the opinions of my really smart friends.  For example, recently I worked with an individual who’d been seeking medical care for 10 years to help him with an unresolved problem.  With the help of my treatment network, we had his problem properly diagnosed and an effective treatment plan in action in 2 weeks!  Most professionals can’t do that sort of thing alone.  They need help.  So make sure your doc has that sort of help and isn’t afraid to use it.

In the end, there’s no easy strategy or magic bullet for finding a doc who’s right for you.  It takes some work.  But if your current doc isn’t getting the job done, or if you simply don’t have a doc that you visit for regular assessments, it might be a good idea to set aside some time in 2009 to take care of this very thing.  It might be the second most important health decision you make this year.

The most important?  Following Precision Nutrition, of course!

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