Thursday, January 11, 2007
Five factors to look at when selecting a physician

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Every now and then, I like to update an old article. I wrote one about 10 years ago on selecting a physician. With the large number of newcomers to the area, it made sense to provide that information again. Selecting a physician is a difficult task. We trust our physician to keep us from getting sick. When we are sick, we want to get better quickly. There are several factors involved in our decision to select a physician. The biggest factor is geography. The best physician in the world may be in Montana. We are not going to travel there to see him/her. Convenience is an important part of seeking medical care. Eighty-five percent of the population travels to the closest physician. Most of them stay within 10 miles of home. Many of us do not recognize the fact that location is more important than anything else in choosing a physician. A second important factor is available appointments. If a physician is so busy that you cannot get an appointment, it does not help you a lot. Some physicians have closed practices. They are not taking new patients. Others have full appointment books. You might have to wait a few days to be seen when you are ill. For most minor illnesses this is not a problem from the medical standpoint. However, some people do not want to wait when they are ill. They will choose a physician who will be able to see them quickly. One way to get a feel for this is to call the office in advance of your first appointment. If the physician can see a new patient within a week or two, then you can expect easy access. If the wait for a new appointment is three to four months, it may be difficult to get an appointment when you are ill. A third factor is how comfortable the patient feels with the physician's manner. Every physician has a different personality. We react to personalities based upon our own personality. Actually 10-20 percent of the population will be unhappy with a physician's personality. That is a different 10-20 percent for each physician. Therefore, everyone will find physicians with whom they feel comfortable. Another portion of feeling comfortable is how carefully the physician explains what is wrong. The same is true for how carefully the treatment is explained. This is also true for the explanation about medications and their side effects. People have different expectations for these things. They will affect how comfortable an individual feels with a physician. I have some patients who just want to get a medication that they have had before. They do not want a lengthy explanation. When I prescribe medicine for ADHD, I always go through a prolonged explanation of what the condition is at the biochemical level. I always cover the major side effects of the medication. I do it the same way every time. Some patients may not want that detail. However, I later know exactly what I told them. The same thing is true for asthma medication. Different medications work on different parts of the illness. I find it important to first explain what the illness involves. Then I can make clear how the medications actually work. Waiting time in the office is the fourth factor. Each physician has a different pace. Some have unexpected interruptions from the hospital and other patients. Therefore, waiting time in the office frequently varies by physician. Patients usually decide what wait they find acceptable based upon the other items above. The amount of time each individual decides is acceptable varies. Some people have no trouble waiting 30 minutes. Others find a 5-minute wait unacceptable. This is a very person specific factor. I tend to make sure all the parent's questions are answered. That means I am usually behind in my appointments. However, once you are in the office, you get the same amount of attention. There is a tradeoff. You might have to wait longer. However, you know that you will get a chance to ask your questions once you get into the office. Some people would prefer to wait less. Others would prefer the longer wait with the increased time in the office. It is a personal thing. The fifth factor is related to what friends and neighbors say about the physician. Some physicians are more popular than others. We need to remember that much of this is based upon how comfortable those people feel with a physician. In some instances we may not feel the same way about the physician when we see him/her. However, this factor is an important one in the selection process. The bottom line is that there are many factors that enter into a decision to select a physician. Most of those are related to personal preferences. A good fit between the patient's expectations and the physician's style is important.

Dr. Anthony Policastro is medical director at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital.

Nurses' Assistant evening course at Delaware Tech
Do you have a desire to contribute to the well-being of individuals in need? Would you like to be an essential member of a nursing team? If you answer positively to both questions, now is the time for you to enroll in the evening Nurses' Assistant course at Delaware Technical & Community College, Owens Campus. It will be your first step toward a career in the rapidly expanding and rewarding areas Instruction will be given at Green Valley Terrace in Millsboro from Jan. 30 through April 17; classes will meet on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 5-10 p.m. This 150-hour hour course teaches students to safely perform basic nursing skills under the supervision of a licensed nurse. It consists of 75 hours of classroom/lab training and 75 hours of hands-on clinical training at an approved site. Topics covered include basic nursing skills, patients' rights, dementia, mental health and social services, basic rehabilitative services, personal care skills, and safety/emergency procedures. Graduates will be prepared to take the Nurses' Aide Competency Examination for certification. All nurses' assistants must pass this exam to be certified to work in Delaware. For complete information, including details about fees and payment plans, call the Corporate and Community Programs Division of Delaware Tech at 302-854-6966.

Polar Bear Plunge benefits Special Olympics
The 16th annual Lewes Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Delaware, the state's largest organization dedicated to providing year-round athletic training and sports competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, will take place Sunday, Feb. 4, at 1 p.m. at Rehoboth Beach. Sponsored by Wawa, the Plunge has evolved into Special Olympics Delaware's most significant fundraiser and has drawn more than 2,000 participating 'Polar Bears' each of the past four years, including an event record 2,390 participants in 2006. To participate, 'Polar Bears' must register for the Plunge and collect a minimum of $50 in pledges. On-line registration can be completed on the Special Olympics Delaware web site Forms may be picked up at area Wawa stores, or over-the-phone registrations can be completed by making a toll-free call to (866) I-PLUNGE. The 2006 Plunge raised a record $426,000 for Special Olympics Delaware, and has raised more than $2.9 million since starting in 1992.

Nanticoke to hold annual cholesterol screening
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will be offering cholesterol screenings on February 14, 17 and 21, from 7:30 to 10 a.m. at the Nanticoke Stein Highway building, located in the former PK complex, next to County Bank. The Lipid Profile test requires a 12-hour fasting and reads the HDL and LDL blood levels. Cost for the Lipid Profile is $15. No pre-registration is required. In addition to the cholesterol screening FREE blood pressure checks will be offered. Results from the cholesterol screening will be mailed approximately two weeks after the test is performed. For additional information, call 629-6611 extension 2404.

Fitness open house January 20 at Delaware Tech
Wondering how to get in shape or what you can do for fitness fun? Now is a good time to explore the variety of options available at Delaware Technical & Community College, Owens Campus. Attend the Gymnasium Complex Open House on Saturday, Jan. 20, 9 a.m.-noon in the Jason Technology Center. This free event will feature information about winter and spring fun and fitness courses offered at the campus. Choices include aerobics, cardio/weight training, personal training, men's basketball, tone & tuck, ballroom dancing, belly dancing, dance & flex, Pilates, tai chi, yoga, and Zen meditation. Golf and horseback riding are offered off-campus. Instructors will be on hand to give demonstrations and answer questions; prizes and refreshments will also be part of the fun. You can register early for classes and get a head start on your fitness goals for the year. The Owens Campus Gymnasium Complex, now open five nights per week until 7 p.m., includes state-of-the-art cardio/weight training and exercise equipment, a mirrored exercise room, a basketball court, and complete locker rooms for men and women. Certified personal trainers and group exercise instructors provide guidance toward fitness and health goals. For more information, contact the Corporate and Community Programs Division at 854-6966.