Thankfully, in India, many families still have family doctors. While some family doctors may practice at some big hospital chain, many may run clinics in a residential neighbourhood. A family doctor is almost always a Physician who can understand the problem at hand and treat it themselves or suggest which specialist you need to visit to treat the health issues. There is an inherent trust in the family doctor that this person will guide you right. Over the years, this person will get to know you and your family members, see your kids being born, grow up, complete your education, get married, and so on. They know the complete medical history of each family member. Often, the family doctor is a good and respected Physician who is available and supports the family.
If you have access to such a family doctor, you are one of the lucky ones. However, in times of urbanisation, when people migrate to different cities or states, they might have to look for a new Physician with whom they can build a relationship. What should you look for when searching for a General Physician (GP)?
This point is not exactly an attribute of the doctor but about the need and the logistics involved. The availability of your family doctor in an emergency is a must. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a spot if such needs arise. This aspect is essential for seniors and households with children. Hence, look for a qualified GP referred by a few people in your neighbourhood. It is even more beneficial if this person can provide emergency contact numbers or is willing to make house calls.
If not, find a Physician available in a reputed hospital/clinic in your neighbourhood so you can rush if required. If you have health insurance, please verify if this hospital is part of its network so any in-patient claims can become seamless. Having a doctor in proximity is essential, especially in big cities, when traveling to other areas can be tedious and takes long hours. The whole idea of having a GP on hand is to reduce stress related to health issues.
Often, we see some established practitioners may not be so approachable. How often have you heard someone talk about waiting for an appointment with a famous doctor and then being unsatisfied with the outcome? They find that the doctor was too busy or distracted, did not pay proper attention, or did not feel welcome enough to share issues frankly. Despite having great reputations, such doctors should not be your preferred GPs.
You need someone who can listen to you patiently and explain what is happening to you in a way you understand, what treatment options are available, and so on. Also, language could be an issue if you cannot communicate fluently in English to express yourself. Find people who have been practicing for quite a few years, can speak a few local languages if required, and are friendly and approachable. Remember the Munnabhai model? Approachability is key to building a long association.
- Map to your needs
The ideal option is to find a doctor to treat common health issues and emergencies. Also, confirm if they have been treating seniors and common senior health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, etc. Some GPs may not be comfortable treating seniors for other than common issues. Also, it’s good to find someone with an established basic set-up with at least an X-Ray, ECG, blood check-up facility, etc., so you don’t have to visit different places for regular check-ups. They should at least be able to guide you to trusted diagnostic centres for such tests, rather than you having to search or go to a different place every time.
- Verify the credentials
You might have read about many scams happening in India, including fake certificates and doctors. If picking a new GP in a new city, please verify the person’s credentials, even if a referred by a few people. Every practicing doctor in India is registered under the Indian Medical Council (IMC) with a registration number. You can check for their credentials on this website with their basic details. Many hospitals and healthcare apps voluntarily provide information about doctors, which you can verify easily.
- Check for online reviews
If you are finding a GP in a new neighbourhood with a few referrals, please check their reviews. Online reviews on various platforms, websites, etc., can help you gauge the doctor on aspects such as approachability, competence, treatment success rate, and so on. The key is not to depend 100% on online reviews, as people manipulate either way. Make a fair judgement based on overall reviews, and then try out the doctor before you decide otherwise.