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Putri Juneita Johari

CHOOSING a doctor for yourself or for your loved one can be a confusing process if you don’t know where to start. When you’re taking this journey, try to consider your needs and priorities.

Ask yourself what’s important to you? Do you need a general practitioner or a primary doctor who can treat a broad range of health conditions for you and your entire family? Or do you need a specialist?

This first line of doctor you see should be able to do regular physical examinations, prescribe medications that you can’t simply buy over the counter, treat minor illnesses and injuries, manage some chronic conditions like hypertension, asthma and diabetes, and screen for common health problems. Some may even do gynaecological screening like Pap tests and birth control options. These doctors would usually refer you to a specialist if you need further treatment or care.

Usually, young women in the family way would choose their Ob-Gyn as their primary doctor. Obstetrician-Gynaecologists are doctors who are experts in women’s health. During this phase of a woman’s life, the Ob-Gyn will care for your important milestones like monitoring your pregnancy, delivering your baby and overseeing general female health that includes annual check-ups, breast examinations, Pap smear, mammogram, and menopausal issues.

For example, if something unusual like bleeding after menopause occurs, the Ob-Gyn would examine you to rule out anything serious. Should you require further testing, you’d be referred to an oncologist (specialists for cancer).

DO YOUR RESEARCH

Choosing a doctor to treat you can be mind-boggling as there are so many to choose from. Some aren’t just specialists in what they do, but are sub-specialists who treat specific types of diseases. To find out more, learn about your condition, bearing in mind that what you read from the Internet isn’t always accurate.

Sometimes it can be scary, especially when you watch videos of procedures that you think you need. Instead of scaring yourself silly, talk to people who’ve had similar problems as yours, who’ve seen doctors, and have been treated with a certain degree of success.

Let’s take a knee problem, for example. It doesn’t mean that you need a knee replacement when your knee hurts and you’re of a certain age group. It doesn’t even mean you need stem cell treatment or whatever else is popular out there.

Not all solutions for knee problems are the same. It all depends on the problem. That’s why you’d need to have a specialist examine your knee and get a diagnosis. You may need an X-ray, MRI or ultrasound done to identify the problem.

Some people hear the words “knee replacement” being bandied about by both doctors and friends and get scared. They end up deciding never to see a doctor to get treatment. They prefer to choose home remedies and prescribe themselves off-the-counter painkillers to deal with it.

Doing this might help you manage the pain in the short term, but taking any medication in the long run may do damage to your kidneys and liver. You need a doctor’s advice and guidance to help you. That said, you may need a second or third opinion if you’re not happy with suggestions proposed by the specialist.

Over the years, I’ve visited many specialists for various issues that my family and I have had. Some have been fabulous at their job; others not so. There have been those who gave us the price list for the treatments first before even looking at our medical reports.

CHOOSING WELL

Don’t feel compelled to stay with this type of specialists. If you’re unhappy with the way the doctors treat their patients, find someone else. You need to have confidence in the person treating you. Even if your insurance covers all costs, you don’t need someone who makes you feel bad.

When choosing a doctor, there are also other things to consider. Location is one, in addition to what are the available facilities, for example, X-ray and certain screenings like blood tests. Also, you’ll need to know if your insurance can cover the visit/treatment or you have to pay first and claim later.

Other considerations like courteous personnel who promptly answer the phone and manage appointments are also important. If the main doctor isn’t available, would you be comfortable with his or her partner attending to you? This scenario, however, is different if you were going to public/general hospitals where you just have to take what you get.

Wherever you eventually choose to go for your treatment, or with whom, remember you need to be able to trust your doctor with your life. A good relationship with them is a big plus point. No matter what type of doctor you see, keeping to your appointments and seeing them regularly are important. Doing this means that you’d be able to catch a problem at the early stage, when it’s most treatable. This might make the treatments less intensive and cost less too.

Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang. (SCSOA).

She can be reached at [email protected].

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