What to look for in a doctor

In medicine, as in any profession, there is quite a wide range of physician’s skills, knowledge, interests and personalities.  All of these factors can play a role in the success they have in caring for patients.  These issues are of particular importance when caring for someone diagnosed with a brain aneurysm.  As a patient, your outcome may very much depend on who is taking care of you in addition to the severity of your disease.  There are many variables to consider when you are evaluating your physician.  But there is one quality I would like to elaborate on in this column.  That quality is patience.

People are in such a rush these days.  Many new businesses are being formed now with the sole purpose of helping us do things faster and more efficiently.  Whether it’s making a restaurant reservation, hailing a cab, advertising a business, or reaching out to friends all over the country, we can now do things so much faster.  It’s hard not to get caught up with this popular trend, and not let this desire for efficiency get carried away.

With the widespread adoption of electronic medical records, an emphasis on medical decisions based on clinical evidence and greater amounts of data available for each patient, there is also a tendency to seek ways to achieve efficiency in the practice of medicine today.  Getting caught up in this wave of ever-improving efficiency stifles the opportunity for physicians to practice the type of medicine our patients oftentimes truly need.

When it comes to brain aneurysms, we are confronting something delicate, complex, and potentially life-threatening or at least neurologically disabling.  Part of what appeals to me about being a doctor is the necessity of slowing things down when I care for my patients.  There are many opportunities to slow down.  When we are in the office reviewing the symptoms, medical history and imaging, I like to take my time and not miss any potentially important details.  In our neurovascular conferences where we discuss our management approaches to challenging cases, I like to dwell a little on each case, to make sure we are considering as many perspectives as possible.  Even in the procedure room, we take our time reviewing safety checklists to smoothly and methodically complete the case.  It is easier to think clearly, to act precisely and to react appropriately when we know when to slow down and really focus on the patient.

I hope you can recognize this quality in the physician who will be caring for you.  After several years in practice, I understand more than ever the value of patience when practicing medicine.