Along with your primary physician, your gynecologist or OB/GYN is an essential part of your team of medical professionals you will need to choose. It is important to take the time to understand your own needs and research your options.
What do you need in a gynecologist?
Most people go the route of choosing a physician based on where they went to medical school or someone who has had a certain number of years of experience. While both of these aspects are important, you need to think about the way the doctor communicates and interacts with you. This is sometimes known as “bedside manner”.
- Are you someone who wants a straight talker and not necessarily the “warmest” or friendliest person?
- Do you prefer someone who tells you what you need to know but demonstrates sensitivity to your fears and concerns?
Remember, your gynecologist is someone who will be there to discuss any sexual health issues and for many women, the person they will turn to for advice for when they are planning to or become pregnant. In any event you need to be under the care of someone you can trust and feel comfortable with.
Here are a few other things to consider:
Are you comfortable with a male or a female physician? Many women are comfortable with seeing a male gynecologist, however others don’t see this as a concern as much as long as they are comfortable with the physician’s demeanor and style of communication.
Do you need or prefer someone who speaks a language in addition to English? There are many physicians who have taken the time to learn another language so they can serve a wider number of patients. The ability to speak in the language you know best would be especially helpful in discussing more complex health issues or needs.
What is the physician’s specialty or topics of interest? There may be a history of ovarian cysts in your family. Perhaps it would be helpful to go with a physician who has published on this subject or is actively doing research for ways to better deal with this issue.
There are a number of different ways to research gynecologists. However, the first thing you need to determine is the pool of physicians you can choose from. This depends on the type of insurance you have. If you have a PPO then you have a choice of any doctors within and outside of your health insurance network. This gives you many options but in some ways can be overwhelming to research. If you have a HMO, you are limited to the doctors within your network and sometimes within your geographic area, but this can narrow down your options more quickly.
Referral: A referral from someone you know is perhaps the best research of all. If your friend or coworker is happy with their physician, then perhaps this is someone to consider. You would want the best care for your friends and family members, just as much as you do for yourself.
Physician profile or website: Many times you can find biographies for physicians on the insurance company’s website. Some even have their own webpage with not only information about the physician but resources they recommend. In addition to their credentials, academic history and other professional experience but you can get a glimpse into their personality as well. What the physician does in their free time indicates what’s important to them outside of their professional life. This goes back to that question of the type of rapport you could potentially have with your physician – which can sometimes be beneficial in difficult conversations.
Review websites: There are starting to be more and more review websites for physicians – similar to what Trip Advisor is to hotels. The great thing about these sites is that they are based on the reviews of patients. The downside is that there might not be as much information to go on since these sites are in the earlier stages and are not as well-known – so people don’t know to go to these sites to rate their doctor. One website that can be helpful is Yelp.com. There are more reviews on this website since many people go to this site anyway to find restaurants or car mechanics already so it may come naturally to people to review their physicians.
Forums: This is could be a good resource for those looking for an OB/GYN if you are planning to or are pregnant. Look for local parenting forums or networks. Parents are more than willing to share what they have learned on these forums. This can even lead to early research for a pediatrician for your child.
Analyzing your options
After you’ve gathered your research it’s important to pick 3-5, even as many as 10 doctors to compare against one another. You can put this information into a spreadsheet so you can easily compare them side by side. Use whatever characteristics you find the most important to compare each physician – distance from your home or office, years of experience, hobbies you may in common with them, etc.
Your first appointment
Once you’ve decided upon the gynecologist you feel best fits your needs, make an appointment with them. Since this would be your first visit with them they make take a little more time to not only get a medical history from you but to get to know you personally. You should check out their webpage or profile if they have one to see if they have a summary of what to expect on your office visit. Bring a list of questions you may have – you might forget or be too nervous to remember them. Make the most of your visit to get a good feel for how you and your gynecologist will work together in the long-term.
The steps we’ve outlined not only apply to choosing a gynecologist but also for a primary care physician, dentist or any other healthcare professional. It’s just a matter of knowing what your options are and really understanding what your needs are.