The first time your general practitioner tells you to see a cardiologist can be very intimidating. Most times the general practitioner has someone he can refer you to and if he doesn’t, your friends and family members probably know someone. But if you’re evaluating two or more cardiologists, how do you know what things to look for? Here are five important things to keep in mind.
Just because the cardiologist has an “M.D.” after his name doesn’t mean he’s the best guy for the job. Cardiology is broken into many sub-specialties (like interventional or nuclear cardiology). Depending on what you need the physician’s help for, you may want to seek out someone who has super-specialized knowledge in that field.
To do this, most hospitals now provide searchable staff databases online where you can read about doctor’s credentials and specialties. If your hospital doesn’t provide one, the state medical board does. The state database will generally also tell you which medical school your doctor went to and list any training, certifications, and malpractice settlements he has on the books.
As a general rule, if the hospital has a good reputation for cardiac care, so do the physicians that practice there. By searching for hospital ratings, you can get an idea for the reputation of the hospitals in your area. But don’t be lured by the big name hospital if you don’t feel comfortable there. Kit Cassack, a regional director at Mended Hearts, a cardiac support network, compares this to selecting a college. If you’re more comfortable with a small practice, just go there.
Don’t assume that just because your doctor knows about a procedure, he has experience performing it. Don’t be afraid to ask your physician how many times he has performed a specific operation, what his success rate is, or whether he’s received any specialized training in the area.
No, not the doctor’s, yours. Symptoms of heart disease are very different in men and women. Women should pay specific attention to how much training their doctor has related to women’s health. Also be sure to ask when that training was, as many advances in the fields of women’s health study have been made in the past decade.
Having a good personal rapport with your doctor can be just as important as the doctor’s credentials. If your doctor seems inattentive during your first meeting or is unwilling to answer some of the above questions, you should move on. Don’t be afraid to shop around for doctors until you find one that you are comfortable with. Remember, it’s your health that’s at stake.