I recently had an opportunity to work with a young woman suffering from headaches as well as dizziness and difficulty focusing following a head injury. Her story is pretty common but also a sad one. By the time we sat down together she had numerous treatments. Some had promised to fix an inner ear crystal issue without an understanding of our balance system and instead further injured her neck by spinning her around. Others had a good foundation but were not the right treatment for her and caused further injury. As we sat down to look at her history her husband made a comment I have not forgotten. “It is expensive to find your medical team.”
In their quest for answers, blog posts, Google searches, recommended treatments from friends, and working with their family physician and other specialists they had paid a lot of money and spent almost a year trying to figure out what was wrong and what they could do about it. In the end, she was much worse and now more difficult to treat. This post is for them and those like them that are trying to find the right care.
Choosing Your Medical Team
The problem with medicine
There is a problem in medicine right now and it is one word…time. Practitioners do not have the same amount of time with patients nor do they get the same reimbursement from insurance companies as in the past. Communication between physicians and other medical professions has also gotten more difficult because of too little time. Compounding this problem is the internet.
The great thing about the internet is that anyone can post information about anything. The problem with the internet is that anyone can post anything. We all search online but if we have gotten misinformation our medical professionals have to take time to gently debunk the information we gained and how it is not relevant to our problem. Who do you listen to and what information should you pay attention to? How much information posted is actually correct?
As I am writing this post I am cognizant of the fact that I am one of those ‘bloggers’. What makes me an expert?
Over the years I have had the opportunity to speak as an ‘expert witness’ in trial cases. Now, when you are an expert witness, and not just a witness supporting your treatment, you are asked questions about other treatments and portions of the care and medical history that you were not a part of. Because of this the attorney presents my credentials to the judge and asks me questions about my resume and past experiences. I have often been surprised at this process as I am asked, under oath, why the jury, judge and court should listen to anything that I have to say. I am also equally surprised when the opposing counsel is asked if they agree. I once was asked about the marijuana usage of their client. I had to agree with the objection from the defending attorney, as I had nothing to do with his marijuana-derived medication. Not my area of expertise. Funny though, the judge over-ruled and wanted to hear my thoughts.
What to look for in an Expert
I once asked a surgeon friend of mine when his profession considered themselves experts among their own field of Otolaryngology. His answer surprised me. He gave me an age range of 45 to 55 years old. His reasoning was that it took time and practice to get better in your field. You needed to see enough cases to truly become an expert in his field of ENT in patient care. His profession demanded a certain level of evaluated experience before they would listen to their colleague.
Does their profession support the individual as an expert?
Experience matters. There is a longstanding joke that doctors ‘practice’ medicine. The practice of medicine is just that, experience through treating many patients and continued growth and learning from our medical peers. There is a big difference between the doctor that has been practicing for a few years and one that has had 20 years of experience. In his book Outliers Malcom Gladwell suggested that it took roughly 10,000 hours to become an expert in any given task. Peyton Manning took this one step further in his commercials for UCHealth and talked about being a “game changer”. Innovation with experience and passion can lead to a deeper understanding of problems and these are the specialists that we want to find.
“They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. But what happens at 20,000 hours, or 30,000 hours?” - Peyton Manning
Look for the ‘Game Changers’
Experience matters! Teams are even BETTER!
When choosing your medical team look for experience, even better, look for a team that you can work with. You not only get the person you connect with but a true team that collaborates on your behalf is invaluable and greater than the individuals. A doctor that has been out a few years from school has not seen or ‘practiced’ enough no matter how smart they sound. Look for a strong team of different experiences that truly works together on your behalf. Then tell me. These are hard to find. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Things To Look Out For
The Self-proclaimed Expert
Be careful of self-proclaimed experts. I am the Google Doctor for search or the Headache Doctor for headaches. You are an expert when others say that you are.
In the medical field this takes time to become an expert and this starts after medical, physical therapy or chiropractic school. When working with a new practitioner it is ok to ask them how long they have been treating and what further education they have done. If you have two different sources that are reliable, such as your long standing family doctor and the specialist they referred you to, make the same recommendation for Physical Therapy then this is a clinic you want to check out.
Do trusted sources recommend this doctor or practice?
Be careful of the presence of a lot of advertising. If you see a lot of ads for a company or a product, this is a very inefficient, non-optimized campaign. The more money that is being spent on advertising means less is going to your care. You may be just a number to this company so be careful.
Other forms of advertising that are not what they seem are magazines and websites that advertise the top doctor, or dentist, but require payment for this. The more you pay the more space you get or the higher the position in your search.
For more on online search check out this link.
You are the best person to look after your health!
You have found practitioners that you want to work with now what do you do? In recent years I have been having more symptoms from sleep issues to high blood pressure. This started after a ruptured appendix and then sepsis with two hospital stays and over 6 months to get back to ‘normal’. To answer my questions and hopefully solve these issues I started putting together my medical team.
My ‘’Medical Team’ consists of a Physical Therapist, a Functional Medicine Doctor, a Primary Care Doctor, and a dental team specific to sleep issues. How I am working with each is to communicate clearly with each about what the others are wanting to do.
I am not searching the internet for solutions as I trust my team. I found them by seeing over time how they treated their patients and also that they thought ‘outside the box’. I was able to see their results over time. Each of them have evaluated experience, the support from their peers, and listen well. They are each educators at heart, and will answer my questions. They light up when the get a chance to teach me.
I had this thought that I would sit my medical team down for lunch, get out a whiteboard and start brain storming how best to evaluate and treat Joel. I am seriously going to try and do this but the reality is that this is very difficult in the real world. The problem again is TIME. One of the reasons the Mayo Clinic reached their level of respect over the years is how they approached problems through a medical team and developed more comprehensive approaches to treating different problems.
A Challenge to Practitioners
How can we as medical practitioners get better in our communication with our patients and with the various disciplines that have a role in caring for our community? I believe we can get BETTER at teaching our clients and this starts with communication.
Ideas that are causing change
Direct Primary Care
Taking the insurance out of medicine in Family Practice allowing for more frequent and greater access to their doctors.
Sharing information between the professions to improve inter-disciplinary cooperation. If you are a practitioner and want more information about this project please email me at email@example.com.
Connecting you to health information that is relevant. This project is attempting to change medicine for the better by connecting people to relevant health information.
You are the best person to look after your health!
Take time to put together your medical team and foster communication between the group. Trust your team. When you search the internet share what you have learned. I love this when our clients do this. It helps facilitate my learning too.
Look for practitioners that their own profession considers an expert.
Having a recommendation from their own profession is huge!
Look for experience and teamwork!
These are the "Game Changers" in Medicine.
Trusted sources recommend this doctor or business
Look for trusted sources such as your family doctor, other specialists, or friends and family that recommend this business or practitioner.