Rants 'n' Raves|19/09/2011

Looking for Doctor Right

There is one thing 17 years in healthcare has taught me: People have a hard time finding the right doctor.

Having difficulty finding the right doctor online.A couple of days ago, I had a friend call to ask me to recommend a doctor for a vasectomy — a common, straightforward, outpatient procedure. He told me he went to three different hospital websites, looking for doctors that perform vasectomy and he came up empty handed.

He then did what we all do — picked up the phone and called.

A couple of hours later he had three different quotes with prices varying as much as 50%, and not one of them could recommend a specific doctor because it is against hospital policy. They all suggested he visit their respective websites for more information.

With thousands of doctors just waiting to take care of you, why is finding the right doctor so hard to do? Are doctors hiding in plain sight?

When it comes to finding a doctor, we seem to take the longest route to get from point A to point B. We ask friends, neighbors and relatives, and that usually starts a chain reaction that eventually leads to a name, and we approach the initial consultation like a blind date — cautiously.

It’s a game of hit and miss. We hunt and peck and hunt and peck until we find Dr. Right or settle for Dr. Right Now. Expediency is a big driver in healthcare. We need it when we need it, and don’t have the patience to wait.

Another problem is that doctor information is scattered all over the place and the quality of information ranges from very good to very poor. The natural tendency is to either go to Google or visit a hospital website, but that can be a frustrating and time consuming experience, especially if you are looking to compare several doctors.

If you go the Google route, you most likely get sucked into sites that are not relevant at all and after a while it just becomes a waste of time. I also think web users are wary of doctors who hype themselves on the net, thinking that if it looks to good to be true then it probably is.

Hospital websites are usually better, but again the quality ranges from hospital to hospital. Hospitals typically list doctors by specialty, but if you want to find a doctor that specializes in treating a particular condition or performs a specific procedure, then hospital websites are not as helpful as they could be.

Choosing a doctor is also a fine balance between the emotional and the logical, or as I like to put it between a good photo and good data. Doctors tend to overlook the importance of connecting with consumers on an emotional level and giving them information that makes them approachable. Doctors tend to rely exclusively on their CV rather than what they do and how they can help you.

It’s human nature to want to see a smartly dressed doctor brimming confidence, rather than photo that looks like it was taken at police line up. Consumers want to read articles, see videos, hear testimonials, and “like” their doctor on Facebook. These are the metrics today’s consumers use to evaluate doctors.

I meet a lot of doctors who bristle at the idea of marketing themselves, thinking that somehow this cheapens their image or their profession. But hiding in an ivory tower isn’t the answer either. As analog world of healthcare slowly creeps its way into our digital lifestyles, we’ll use the internet more and more to find Dr. Right in the same way we use the internet to find Mr. Right. The digital wave is going to hit us all sooner or later, so might as well embrace the change.

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