A key ingredient to obtaining ideal asthma control is finding a GREAT doctor/specialist. So, how do we define “great” when it comes to doctors anyway? I mean, what differentiates a “great” doctor from any other doctor?
Keep in mind here that there is no such thing as a PERFECT doctor. As the old saying goes, “Perfection in and of itself is a flaw.” Still, a good doctor — a GREAT doctor — would entail a combination of the following virtues.
This may or may not entail a doctor with top notch medical credentials. It does entail a doctor with a high level of knowledge in his specialty, which in our case is asthma. And I’m not talking about the same knowledge of asthma learned in medical schools in 1982. Researchers have been working overtime in recent years in their efforts to better understand and treat our disease. A great doctor stays up to date on any new wisdom learned so that you are always getting the best treatment possible.
I think I can explain this one with an example. A long time ago I was sitting in a room visiting with a patient. A surgeon came into his room and pulled the covers off the patient, exposing him to the world. The doctor did a quick exam, and said, “We’ll do surgery in the morning.” He then covered the patient back up and left the room. The patient then smiled and said to me, “He may not have the best bedside manner, but he is a damn good surgeon. I think when you’re that gifted in one area you lack in another, and in his case, it’s bedside manners. But damn is he a skilled surgeon.” So true! — at least when it comes to surgeries and procedures.
. Another term for this is “good bedside manners.” It’s nice to have a doctor who is empathetic to your needs and wants, and shows genuine emotion when you’re happy or sad, or who actually gives you a hug when you need one. However, all we really ask for here is a doctor who is conscious of your feelings. To use our example from above, a doctor with great bedside manners would have pulled the curtain and explained what he was going to do — before pulling off the covers.
. A great doctor is a great listener or at least a good listener. A doctor only has a limited amount of time to spend with you. Still, a great doctor will allow you time to tell your story. In fact, a great doctor encourages you to tell your story. He looks you in the eye (as opposed to looking at your chart). He nods and gestures appropriately, as though indicating he’s paying attention. And then he responds appropriately to your concerns and takes the time to answer any questions you might have.
. A great doctor is a great teacher. For instance, most doctors just write prescriptions for inhalers and leave it at that. A great doctor — a great asthma doctor in our instance — will write the prescription, and explain to you why this inhaler is important, how it will help you, and how to properly use it. A great doctor assures you have all the knowledge necessary to stay healthy.
. A great doctor is one who is available when needed. If you are feeling asthma symptoms, your doctor does you no good if you can’t see him. When I was a kid I had really bad asthma, and my parents called him once in the middle of the night. He was so concerned for me that he had us meet him at his office. I never forgot that and thought it was so cool. In fact, I actually think it was that night he introduced me to my first rescue inhaler.
. She is open-minded and willing to consider new ideas. Many times I have gone to my doctor with my own ideas. I mean, look what I do for a living: I research and write about asthma. For instance, my doctor was determined to get me off Advair and had me trial Symbicort, Dulera, and Breo. I’m open minded, so I gave them all a try. However, I ended up deciding I wanted to stay on Advair. He was open minded to the idea of me staying on what I was comfortable with. I really respect that.
. A good doctor knows her limits. Family doctors are great doctors for treating the basic ailments. They understand asthma and will try to help you. However, sometimes asthma can be difficult to control. A great doctor is well aware of her limits and is not too proud to refer you to an asthma specialist such as an allergist or pulmonologist. Or, if you request to see a specialist, she doesn’t take it personally and grants you your request.
You and your doctor must be able to form a good doctor/patient team. This is key to obtaining good asthma control. You must feel comfortable with your doctor’s personality, and you must have faith that he is confident treating what ails you. Keeping these eight virtues in mind will set you on a path to finding that GREAT asthma doctor; one who will work with you on your path to ideal asthma control.