FM/CFS/ME RESOURCES - Tips For Finding A Doctor

 

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Tips For Finding A Doctor

Finding A Doctor Finding a good doctor is often one of the hardest things you'll ever do. Some doctors still adhere to the theory that FM and/or CFS/ME is "all in your head." However, there are many other doctors who realize that the pain and fatigue we experience is very real indeed!

I've recently expanded the doctor database to include 7363 doctors from 80 countries around the world. This should make finding a doctor easier.

All practitioners have their own style, their own set of expertise, and their own limitations. The more informed you are, the better choice you're likely to make in choosing a health care provider. If you're unhappy with your health care provider you need to tell them. Then make the changes necessary to ensure that you'll be satisfied. I've provided the information below to help you in finding the right doctor for you.

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Preparation

Be prepared for your visit with a list of your symptoms and medications. Many patients find that keeping a symptom diary helps them talk to their doctors better. Ask questions and answer questions fully. Be prepared so you can make the most of your meeting with your healthcare provider, you will likely have limited time.

Write down your thoughts before you go. List all symptoms you experience on a regular basis. Describe the symptom clearly but try to keep it as brief as possible. Note when the symptom began, how frequently it occurs, and how it affects your life. Place special attention to describing:

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Phone Interview

Once you've found a doctor we suggest that you call their office and "interview" them first. Calling the doctor will help to determine if they are the right doctor for you. Write down all the things that are important to you, then call. Be sure to have a note pad nearby to jot down their answers, etc.

Questions To Ask:

  • I have (or may have) FM and/or CFS/ME, and I'm looking for a health care provider. Is this doctor familiar with FM and/or CFS/ME?
  • Does this doctor diagnose FM and/or CFS/ME regularly?
  • What percentage of his patients have FM and/or CFS/ME?
  • Does this doctor accept what medicare pays?
  • What insurance does the doctor accept?
  • Does this doctor treat people without insurance, and how much will it cost, etc.

NOTE: While many doctors will accept what medicare pays for their services, there are many who don't. Be sure to know this in advance, as you may need to come up with more money for your visit.

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Things To Notice While On The Phone

  • When calling, is the receptionist friendly, prompt, and professional?
  • Were you left on hold for too long?
  • Did the receptionist seem knowledgeable about the workings of the office?
  • Was the staff friendly and willing to answer your questions?

You've completed the phone interview and you feel this doctor might be the right one. Be prepared for your visit with a list of your symptoms and medications. Many patients find that keeping a symptom diary helps them talk to their doctors better. Ask questions and answer questions fully. Write things down. You might even want to ask permission to audiotape the visit. If possible, always take a family member or friend with you. Here are some things to take into consideration when you go for your first visit.

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At The Doctor's Office

Schedule a no-cost interview with each provider who interests you. Make it clear to the receptionist or nurse scheduling appointments that this is not a medical exam, just an interview. At your interview, provide a short list of your medical problems or symptoms. Be brief. Keep the interview to 10 or 15 minutes.

Write down all of your questions in order of importance. Don't depend on your memory. Interviewing a doctor can be stressful and you're likely to forget something if you haven't written it down. By asking the most important questions first, you ensure those questions will be answered even if the appointment has to be cut short due to time constraints.

Things to look for:

  • When arriving for your appointment, were you greeted promptly?
  • Was the reception area clean and comfortable?
  • Did you have to wait long to see the doctor?

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Interview Questions:


  • How often do you treat patients with my type of illness?
  • What are your special qualifications to treat my illness?
  • Have you participated in any special training for pain management techniques?
  • How will you manage my pain condition in terms of medications & alternative therapies?
  • What types of medications do you usually prescribe?
  • What types of non-medication therapies do you use?
  • Where do you refer patients who need additional treatment?
  • Is your clinic listed with any professional societies?
  • Are you, or is someone in the clinic, available 24 hours a day if I need help?
  • What should I expect from treatment with you and/or your team?
  • What do you expect from me?
  • Will your services be covered by my insurance?
  • Do you accept what Medicare pays?
  • How much do your services cost?
  • How can I make arrangements with you to pay for these services?

While many doctors will accept what medicare pays for their services, there are many who don't. Be sure to know this in advance, as you may need to come up with more money for your visit.

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During The Exam

  • When the doctor entered the exam room, did he introduce himself with a smile?
  • Did his conversation with you seem as though he looked at your file before greeting you?
  • Did the doctor seem caring and compassionate, and sympathetic to your condition?
  • Did the doctor rush through the exam?
  • Did you feel comfortable talking with him and telling him personal information?

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After The Exam

  • Did the doctor talk to you about your concerns and ask you if you have questions?
  • Did he seem knowledgeable about your illness, tests, current treatment options and medications?
  • Did he ask you if you were currently taking any medications?
  • Did he discuss any of his philosophies about treatment?
  • When discussing pain management, what were his philosophies?
  • Are you confident that the doctor will manage your pain to your expectations?
  • Who fills in for him when he's on vacation or unavailable?

After the interview, jot down your impressions. Did this person believe in Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Were your questions answered? Is this a person you feel comfortable with? Did this person listen intently to you, or were they distracted?

Trust your gut instinct. Finding the right person to treat your FM and/or CFS/ME is important. Don't give up. Even if you've had bad experiences in the past, things are improving in FM and CFS/ME treatment. There's a medical professional out there who is just right for you!

Most importantly, ask questions when you are unsure about something. Don't be shy or feel you are being "a pain" when you ask a lot of questions. It is your doctor's responsibility to answer ALL of your questions. If he brushes you off or seems inpatient with you, find another doctor! Remember, doctors are people too. Like the rest of us, they have personal opinions and attitudes. They can't be totally unbiased or free of pre-judgments. If your doctor can't deal with your real medical problems, seek help elsewhere.

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Other Considerations

  • What hospital is he associated with?
  • What is the reputation of that hospital?
  • Is the doctor's office and the associated hospital close to your home?

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Pain

The more you share about the pain you feel, the better. Sometimes it's hard to find the right words to say exactly how you hurt. Below are a few ways to describe the pain of fibromyalgia. Be sure to describe WHERE you feel pain.

  • Tender
  • Stiff
  • Dull
  • Burning
  • Throbbing
  • Sharp
  • Deep Pain
  • Achy
  • Bruised
  • Flu-Like Symptoms

Pain often affects the way you live every day. Talk with your healthcare provider about how you spend each day. Does the pain keep you from doing any of the things you usually do? Be detailed.

It may help to write this information down. Then, you can be sure you don't leave anything out. Filling out the log each day will help you describe your pain. It will also help you identify pain triggers. Share it with your health care provider at your next visit. It will help them to give you the help you need. Try to focus on a few questions each day, such as:

  • Are you fatigued?
  • Does the pain affect your sleep?
  • How many hours of sleep are you regularly getting?
  • Do you have a normal appetite?
  • Are you active?
  • What is your daily routine?

Avoid the temptation to say your pain level is 50 on a scale of 0 to 10. Although your intention is to have the severity of your pain taken seriously, it will have the exact opposite effect. If you exaggerate your pain level, your doctor will assume you're exaggerating everything else as well.

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Education

The more you know about Fibromyalgia (FM) and/or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME), the better prepared you'll be when trying to find a doctor. It's a difficult process, and you may need to educate a few health-care professionals along the way. Be sure you know the list of symptoms and become familiar with the various ways FM and CFS/ME are treated.

The crux of the problem is that no medical specialty has "claimed" FM and CFS/ME, so finding a knowledgeable doctor isn't as easy as with most illnesses. FM and CFS/ME are not well understood, and many health-care providers have a hard time recognizing them. Some don't even believe these are actual medical conditions.

All this means that the burden of finding someone qualified to treat you falls squarely on your shoulders. If you already have a good relationship with a health care provider, you should urge them to develop an understanding of FM and CFS/ME. Educate your doctor by providing them with literature about these illnesses.

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Support

Support groups may be able to guide you when looking for a health care provider in your area. You can see a list of your local FM/CFS/ME support groups by CLICKING HERE.

Call local hospitals. Ask about support groups for Fibromyalgia and/or Chronic Fatigue. People in those groups will know which health care providers treat Fibromyalgia and/or Chronic Fatigue.

Keep in mind that many people choose health care providers according to "personality" and opinions differ among individuals. Most people are not qualified to characterize a doctor as competent or incompetent. However, compassion and understanding, good "bedside manner" and an open mind are qualities that count in a health care provider, especially when treating chronic illnesses like FM and CFS/ME.

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Doctor Types

Traditionally, Fibromyalgia (FM) fell under the scope of rheumatologists. But today, primary care doctors, podiatrists, osteopaths, psychiatrists, neurologists, nurse practitioners, naturopaths and pain specialists are overseeing long-term FM and CFS/ME treatment.

Many rheumatologists have big, demanding patient loads. Some prefer to treat only autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Ideally, you would like to have one provider take care of you. If you can't get that, the next best option is a treatment team - a provider who manages your long-term FM and/or CFS/ME treatment, plus therapists who address special problems.

For Long-term FM and/or CFS/ME treatment: Talk to doctors of osteopathy (DO), primary care physicians, nurse practitioners. If you're seeing a podiatrist, psychiatrist, or neurologist, talk to them about your overall condition.

For short-term therapy: You will likely need physical, occupational, speech, and cognitive therapists who can treat certain aspects of your illness. You won't see them long-term, just for awhile to get exercises you can do on your own.


Remember

Doctors are people too. They're all fallible, and no one doctor can possibly keep up with all the new medical information coming out. Doctors, like the rest of us, have personal opinions and attitudes. They can't be totally unbiased or free of pre-judgments. If your doctor can't deal with your real medical problems, seek help elsewhere!


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