6 Signs Your Doctor Is a Keeper (And 5 Signs They’re Not!)

Updated: Feb. 19, 2023

How does your doc stack up?

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Keep your doc if: She’s experienced in your particular problem

When it comes to getting quality medical care, experience is the most important factor, says David Norris, CEO of MD Insider, a company that evaluates physicians based on their performance data. Whether you are managing a lifelong condition like diabetes or need a specific treatment like knee surgery, a doctor who specializes in that particular thing is worth their weight in gold, he says. And forget all those fancy plaques on the wall; Norris says their data found no correlation between attending a top-tier, expensive medical school and medical proficiency. “Ultimately it comes down to how many times they’ve done [something], whether it’s diagnosing or surgery or whatever,” he says. “The more they’ve done it, for the most part, the better they are at it.” Here are the secrets to finding the best doctors, according to other doctors.

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Ditch your doc if: She has a lot of repeat customers

Ideally, doctors are there to help you get better. While there are some conditions that won’t and just need to be monitored, most of the time you can expect to see at least some improvement. “One of the biggest indicators a doctor isn’t a good one is the number of times a patient has to be readmitted or has to have the procedure or treatment repeated,” Norris says.


Keep your doc (even if he has terrible online reviews): As long as you like him

Google may be the first resource you turn to when looking for a good doctor but that may be the least reliable way to find one, Norris says. His company has analyzed hundreds of thousands of online reviews and matched them with the doctor’s actual performance data. Their conclusion? “We’ve found absolutely no correlation between patient reviews, like those found on sites like Yelp!, and medical proficiency,” he explains. “People who’ve had negative experiences are more likely to leave reviews and they’ll often complain about things that have no relevance to their medical care, like bathrooms or parking spaces.” So forget what everyone else online is saying—the only opinion that should matter is yours.


Ditch your doc if: He’s just “nice”

Bedside manner is a great bonus but rapport isn’t the most important thing when it comes to getting the best medical care, especially with specialists. “Being a good doctor doesn’t mean they’re a nice doctor,” Norris says, “but in the end you’re better off with the surgeon who is technically better than the one who’s nicer.” If your doc happens to be nice and well-skilled, you’ve found a true winner. But don’t just stay with someone because you bond over golf scores. Don’t miss these 50 secrets surgeons won’t tell you.

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Keep your doc if: She is open about her failures

Transparency is one of the attributes patients find most reassuring in their healthcare providers, but one of the hardest to find, according to Norris. “Honesty and transparency build trust, which leads to better patient outcomes,” he says. One example? Many doctors will advertise that they perform a particular procedure or treat a specific condition, he says, but far fewer will provide evidence of how many times they’ve done it or treated it and how it has worked out. You definitely want a doc in the latter camp, even if it shows they’re not perfect. Remember these 14 things you should never lie to your doctor about.


Ditch your doc if: She’s always ordering tests

Getting every test under the sun may make you feel like your doctor is proactive but that sense of security comes with a price—literally. “Contrary to popular belief, more testing does not generally result in better outcomes,” Norris says. “Often [tests are ordered] because they have a financial tie-back or other business reason for doing so, like the doctor owns a stake in a certain company or has just purchased an expensive new machine.” These are the ten tests and procedures doctors don’t waste money on.


Keep your doc if: He tells you “no” sometimes

Doctors are vulnerable to peer pressure too and this is even more true in the age of the internet. Some doctors are so afraid of negative online reviews or of making a patient upset that they’ll allow the patient to bully them into doing something they don’t feel is best. For instance, many patients want antibiotics for cold and flu symptoms even though tons of research has shown they’re not effective and can worsen the antibiotic-resistance crisis. But some doctors will give in to these demands just to placate a patient. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask questions or make concerns known but rather that your demands shouldn’t trump his expertise. A doctor who truly cares about you won’t be afraid to tell you when something isn’t in your best interest. This is what your doctor is really thinking—but won’t say to your face.


Ditch your doc if: He’s in and out in two minutes

The average person has to wait nearly half an hour in the office before seeing their doctor and then the average appointment lasts less than 15 minutes. Even worse, a separate study found that patients were only allowed to speak for a mere 12 seconds before being interrupted. But just because this is the standard doesn’t mean you should settle for it. This revolving door mentality leaves patients frustrated and, more often that not, with a prescription, rather than feeling heard and getting advice about lifestyle changes that could help them more than a pill. A good doctor will respect your schedule, take the time to listen to you, and let you finish your sentences. Check out these eight secrets to help you make the most of your doctor appointments.


Keep your doc if: He’s accessible

We live in a 24/7 world and being confined to office hours can mean inconvenience at best and a serious problem missed at worst. Many doctors are now offering alternate scheduling (like weekend hours), call lines, online test results, and e-mail access to help patients get the care they need it when they need it. These 21st-century conveniences aren’t necessarily a dealbreaker but they sure do make things easier!


Ditch your doc if: He won’t refer you for a second opinion

“Forty percent of patients are misdiagnosed initially,” Norris says. Medicine isn’t an exact science and it’s easy to make mistakes. One of the best ways to avoid this is to have a second (or third) pair of eyes on the patient. A good doctor will encourage you to seek out more information and other medical opinions. Don’t trust a doc who tells you they are the only ones with the answers and you shouldn’t question them.


Keep your doc if: She updates her skills

Medicine as a profession is constantly changing, with new information, research, technology, and treatments emerging all the time. Good doctors will stay abreast of developments in their field and be willing to learn more about new techniques. Here are ten tips to help you find a doctor you can trust.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest