Is Your ‘Regular Doctor’ Extraordinary?

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By Michael Hanak, MD

As a primary care physician working at a renowned institution, it is tempting to perceive myself as a “good doctor.” I greet patients with a smile, I strive to provide treatments that are in line with the latest medical advances, and I do my best to explain medical problems in a way that is easy to understand.

But when a family member asked me what to look for in a great doctor, I found myself suddenly at a loss for words. With so many well-meaning physicians (after all, helping people is why we went into medicine in the first place), what are the things that make a physician extraordinary?

As I began thinking about this, I quickly jumped to the conclusion so many doctors jump to when they hear the words “patient satisfaction.” Sometimes we as doctors are put in situations where a patient asks for a treatment that we know is not effective. Do we say yes and risk the patient’s health? Or say no and upset the patient?

Those physicians with the highest ratings must be saying “yes” all the time! But this can’t be right either. Thinking back to my residency training, there were plenty of mentors who were such effective communicators that patients left empowered and educated, rather than with a handful of prescriptions, and still felt they had the best doctor in the world.

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