Tag Archives: Advice No-One Asked For

How To Find A Good Physician

Here’s something that no-one wants to talk about: physicians are regular people. We like to put doctors on a pedestal because they are in charge of our health, and we’re like to feel that our health is in the hands of the best, but the best are very few, and it’s improbable that you’ll be assigned even a good doctor on chance alone.

As is the case of most professions, physician quality follows a normal distribution. A few are very bad at their job, some are merely bad, most are average doctors, some are good doctors, and again, a few are very good at what they do. 

Bell Curve
Example of a normal distribution, AKA “Bell Curve”

By merely showing up to the hospital or clinical practice, the law of averages will assign you an average physician. You might like to think it is otherwise, that your doctor is the best, but that is just you being delusional. And average is fine in most situations. You don’t need Hugh Laurie to prescribe you a flu shot or mend a broken arm. 

But if you’re in a situation where something is wrong with you, and you’re not quite sure what it is, average doctors will either not know what’s wrong with you, or will default to the most statistically probable diagnosis. That’s not a great system for health care.

You can identify a good doctor by:

  1. Time spent on your appointment. This is especially relevant on the first appointment, or the first appointment about a new situation. Anything less than 30 minutes is not acceptable. Good physicians will regularly spend a full hour with their patients. They will make thorough examinations and ask a lot of questions.
  2. Ability to answer questions and explain things. A good doctor will tell you the why’s and the systems behind what’s happening. If a physician can’t explain why it’s important that you get a specific blood marker under control, for example, but merely states that you should, that’s a sign that he doesn’t understand what it’s for, he’s just following a cheat sheet with average values. Most doctors will tell you that you should lower your cholesterol, but they are stumped if you ask them what cholesterol does.

To Get The Right Diagnosis, Look For a Third Opinion

People are still not used to asking for a second opinion. Again, they mistakenly believe that they were assigned the best person available. As I pointed out above, this is statistically incorrect. 

Depending on the severity of your situation ( and a good way to judge it is the level of discomfort it causes) or the level of violence of the proposed treatment, you might want to get a second opinion from another doctor.

If the second doctor concurs with the first one, that’s pretty decent. You can probably go ahead with a modicum of safety.

If not, then you need a tie-breaker. Yes, you need a third doctor, a third opinion. I mean, you have little other way of making an educated guess about which of the previous two doctors knows best.

I understand this is very annoying. Doctors are expensive, and appointments are time-consuming. What about people who don’t have the money to go to a private practice?! Yeah, I don’t have a good answer to that. I’m giving you the info because I believe that it’s better to know than to not know, but I realize it’s difficult to act upon.

Good luck!

Not Another Steve Jobs Essay: Of Turtlenecks and Mindfulness

The anecdote goes like this: this famous person had a closet full of black turtleneck shirts. The point was to have one less decision to make at the start of the day.  But why is that important? It’s often assumed that it was so that this smart dude could hit the ground running, pondering incredibly more important  questions than “what should I wear today?”

But that wasn’t the point. The point was mental cleanliness. A person without a routine wakes up and immediately there’s a mental overload of “what to do, what to dress, what to eat.” The brain starts running upon waking up and won’t stop until going to sleep. That’s not healthy, and yet it’s the precise way in which we spent most of our lives.

The purpose of meditation is to help you gradually incorporate the act of “being present in the moment” into your life. That’s why it’s called a practice. The sitting is not the point. It’s the development of a skill that you can use through the day.

Standardizing some of your choices, as that guy did, is a practical way to help you find the mind space for this. Try having the same – preferably healthy – breakfast every day, for a month. See how that one less decision impacts your day. 

You might not build the next iPhone, but you’ll probably have a more pleasant morning.

Photo Credit: ijpatter1 Flickr via Compfight cc

A Bad Plan Is Better Than No Plan At All

When the world comes crashing around us, there’s often not enough time or presence of mind to come up with the even most basic response. If you have a bad plan, you’re off to a head start when compared to the version of you who doesn’t have a plan.

Consider stuff that is bad enough to throw you off-balance, temporarily disabling your capacity to plan how to deal with it on the spot. Some things that usually make people crash:

— Death (of a child, a parent, a spouse).

— Loss of job/bankruptcy (of yourself, your spouse, a parent, or close family member)

— Serious illness or accident resulting in disability of some sort.

It might be grim, but thinking about these things needn’t depress you. Paradoxically, you might feel that having considered them in advance and having decided on a course of action reduces anxiety about them by some measure.

And don’t let the planning consume you. There’s no such thing as a perfect plan. The point is that a bad plan is better than no plan. Unless the dreaded event is something that you see as being increasingly certain, content yourself with formulating a first step, and leave it at that. 

If misfortune does strike, you’ll be able to hit the ground running.

Photo Credit: Christine Schmitt Flickr via Compfight cc