My Top 6 Criteria for Choosing a Doctor

Jean Mellano avatar

by Jean Mellano |

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(Graphic by Jean Mellano)

Finding the right doctor who meets your needs as a person with Parkinson’s disease can be daunting. I have consulted with 11 neurologists, seven of whom were movement disorder specialists (MDS), in the five years since my initial diagnosis in 2015.

Following are my top criteria in choosing what I like to refer to as my partner on this Parkinson’s journey:

Is the doctor open-minded about alternative approaches?

While I believe there is a place for prescription drugs in the treatment of Parkinson’s, I do not want the doctor’s primary focus to be all about prescribing drugs.

Upon lamenting to my current neurologist about how long it takes me to get dressed due to my bradykinesia, he suggested I try dancing while getting dressed. He also suggested I try meditation to calm my anxiety. These are the types of prescriptions I can sink my teeth into, and they both helped!

Is the doctor easily accessible for questions?

Going through an assistant to get a question to the doctor, then having to wait days for a response after playing phone tag is not desirable. Ideally, it is preferable that the doctor be accessible via email to respond quickly.

Does the doctor treat me as a person with Parkinson’s and not just treat the disease?

I want my doctor to understand my lifestyle and who I am as a person. I want them to consider it when suggesting a treatment for me. See #1 above.

Is telemedicine an option?

COVID-19 has facilitated the implementation of telemedicine. The fact that insurance will cover these types of visits further enhances this option. This has been a godsend for me and has saved me hours of driving. My movement disorder specialist’s office is over 80 miles from my home. In addition, my doctors have a much better track record at being on time for my telemedicine appointment compared with in-office visits.

Is the doctor benefiting from pharmaceutical payments?

While I would not judge the quality of treatment provided by a doctor solely on the fact that they have taken money from pharmaceutical companies, I believe the potential exists that a doctor might be swayed to recommend certain treatments over others.

One doctor I visited received payments from pharmaceutical companies averaging over $200,000 for a two-year period. That doctor received the second-largest payment from the pharmaceutical company that produced the medication I was prescribed during those two years.

Does the doctor feel threatened by my questions?

Self-education in Parkinson’s and being current in new treatment options are critical. They help me to formulate intelligent questions and allow me to challenge my doctor about something they might suggest that I don’t feel right about. I will not continue with a doctor that gets defensive when I ask them questions, or if a treatment suggestion must be their way or the highway.

It’s worth the effort

It has taken me several years to find a neurologist and an MDS that meet the majority of my criteria. It has been worth the effort of trial and error. I consider these doctors as long-term partners with me in my Parkinson’s treatment plan.

“Doctors are our partners, and they need all the assistance we can give them to be sure we get the right diagnosis.” — Ann Richards

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

Comments

Beth avatar

Beth

I just recently got diagnosed with PD. I am 83, and figure I probably won’t live long enough to experience the bad times, but my grandmother lived to 99, (no PD) so time will tell. My first doctor, and only one right now, is young, and has not been practicing a long time. Good or bad? I don’t know yet. She is very nice, and answers my questions, but must admit, is she really telling me everything because I am old? Probably not a good thing to think. I say that as she said my brain was okay. But it is not, as it is lacking Dopamine, so not sure about that statement which I will discuss more when my daughter is not with me.

Reply
Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

hi beth, in some instances, I think younger doctors can be better since they tend to be more current with treatments, however, he/she may not have as much experience. There is much to be known about PD, we are all different in our symptoms and we all react differently to treatments. Perhaps you may want to get another opinion so you have another doctor to compare. Keep in mind all the criteria in my article and what out of the criteria is important to you. An excellent book that covers a lot about PD that I have found to be a great reference.

The New Parkinson's Disease Treatment Book: Partnering with Your Doctor To Get the Most from Your Medications 2nd Edition
by J. Eric Ahlskog PhD MD

i have found it helpful to educate myself on the disease so i can ask intelligent questions at my dr. appointments

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Lori DePorter avatar

Lori DePorter

Being comfortable in every respect is important. The first MDS I saw handed me pamphlets that were three years old....in this day and age, that was not beneficial.

Reply
Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

Thank you Lori for your comment. I do believe we need to shop around until we find a doctor we feel comfortable with. It is key that we arm ourselves with as much knowledge as we can about our disease.

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Levi Armstrong avatar

Levi Armstrong

I agree with what you said that an ideal doctor is easily accessible and would respond to your inquiries or questions through the phone or email quickly. My dad needs to see a neurologist soon, so I'm helping the family find a reputable one in the city. I'll write down the tips you mentioned here and use them to find the right doctor for Dad. Thanks.

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Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

Hi Levi, it is difficult to find a neuro that meets all those criteria. I selected based on which qualities I felt were important to me. Your Dad is lucky to have you as a son to help guide him through the maze of choosing a doctor. Since telemedicine is widely available now, you have even more choices. Good luck

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