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Patient Self-Advocacy is Important When Choosing Medical Specialists

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Patients should Vet Their Doctors, Too

Americans spend hours of research before deciding which car to purchase, but it seems that we’ll pick a doctor out of a hat.  Unfortunately, choosing the right doctor is more important than purchasing the right vehicle, since going to the wrong doctor can spell the difference between life and death.  For example, Sydney Zaremba’s mother went to her primary care physician with a lump on her neck in the summer of 2011.  It turned out to be a diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, or a type of blood cancer.  Zaremba’s 88-year-old mother was then referred to a specialist for treatment and died in November that year.  Zaremba is still plagued with questions if she did the right thing, or if her mother should have seen a different doctor.

Affordable Health Care Act Highlights Importance of Picking the Right Doctor

With more Americans signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Health Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”), along with increases in the number of referrals from primary care doctors to specialists, it is more important than ever for patients to take an active role in researching doctors.  Perhaps the best advice is to trust your instinct when it comes to the right healthcare provider.  Ms. Zaremba’s mother was treated by Dr. Farid Fata, the hematologist-oncologist and owner of Michigan Hematology Oncology Centers and is facing a $35 million lawsuit for Medicare scamming.  Medicare claims that he gave patients unnecessary chemotherapy treatments and misdiagnosed healthy people to bill for treatments.  It’s too late for Ms. Zaremba’s mother, but she probably wishes that she spent more time researching Dr. Fata before her mother visited his office.

More Americans Seeing Medical Specialists

Americans are seeing medical specialists more and more, according to a recent study in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.  In fact, the probability of being referred to a specialist increased from 4.4% to 9.9% between 1999-2009.  Part of that reason is that many patients are on managed-care plans, where primary care physicians act as “gatekeepers” to specialists to keep down costs.  Doctors say they use different criteria when referring patients, but patient feedback is important.  Thus, it’s important to speak up about your experiences–if you have a bad experience with a specialist, don’t be afraid to tell your primary care doctor.  You could be saving others’ lives, or at the very least, their time.  We must be our own patient advocates for medical care and treatment.  Do your research: check out doctors thoroughly and then check some more.  You can use the Internet and medical reviews, and talk to nurses, lawyers and pharmacists.  Most importantly, make sure to keep asking questions.