What Makes a Physician a Keeper? More Than a Good Web Page

July 27, 2011

What makes me keep a physician beyond the initial “getting to know and diagnose you” visit is much more than a great website, good credentials, and a certified EHR. Physicians who are keepers are those who are not just honest, but sensitive and optimistic too.

Like many consumers, I use a variety of methods to find doctors when I move to a new city. Sometimes I randomly cold call them off an insurance list. Other times, I’ll ask a friend who she uses. 

More and more, I use the Internet to search for local physicians who specialize in what I need. This modern approach has resulted in more successes than failures, though I’ve had a couple of doctor duds.

But what makes me keep a physician beyond the initial “getting to know and diagnose you” visit is much more than a great website, good credentials, and a certified EHR. Physicians who are keepers are those who are not just honest, but sensitive and optimistic too.

(By the way, I was just kidding on that EHR part).

The last seven days have been hell for me because of a certain medical problem I’m dealing with.

After I experienced symptoms that I wasn’t comfortable with, my physician, Dr. R, recommended I take some blood tests as a safety measure. My first round of blood tests revealed results outside of an ideal range. To make sure the tests weren’t flukes, my physician ordered a repeat of the blood work at a nearby hospital.

“I’m scared,” I told her, my voice shaky.

Her sunny reply: “Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world. We can put you on [a certain temporary drug]. Just keep taking your vitamins.”

For someone who interviews physicians on a daily basis in a professional environment, I am not the easiest patient. I ask a lot of time-consuming, repetitive questions. I show up to blood draws in tears. Perhaps even worse, I spend hours on the Internet researching my medical conditions and - yes! - I use my findings to challenge my doctors. (“Dr. R, of course my blood level is X. That’s typical of someone in my situation.”)

Dr. R does more than put up with me. She responds to my fears with sensitivity and a positive outlook. Also, she returns all of my calls on the same day (I’ve never had a physician who does this!). When my blood tests are late because the lab is backed up, she lets me know not to worry.

Of course, she is honest with me. She hasn’t sugarcoated the fact that my health issue, though small by some peoples’ standards, is still a health issue. But left to my own devices - or a physician who lacked people skills and a bright outlook - I would be a mess of “gloom and doom” pessimism.


This morning I took my most difficult blood test yet. The difficulty lies both in not knowing what the results will be, and what they will mean to my future. I’m sure there are plenty of patients out there, right this moment, going through those same emotions.

Physicians can’t change blood test results. But they can think about the way they communicate with patients. Speaking of which, there is a great article that hit the newswire this morning that gives the best reasons patients should fire their doctors. More than one reason boils down to “bad communication.”

Dr. R has assured me that we’ll take it one day at a time, and that she will be there to help me to stay mentally and physically healthy in the process. Her support is more than I could ask of a busy physician with hundreds of patients. She is a keeper, and I am so grateful for her sunny optimism as I trudge through my day.