Medical Doctors, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
Medical Care

Medical Doctors
In the American system, general practitioners, internists and family practitioners fill the basic needs for medical examination and treatment. If things become more complicated, the doctor will send you to a specialist. Medical specialists will have both simple English descriptions as well as confusing titles derived from Latin and Greek. And eye doctor is an “ophthalmologist,” a heart specialist a “cardiologist,” an ear-nose-and-throat specialist a “otolaryngologist,” a skin doctor a “dermatologist,” a children's doctor a “pediatrician,” and so on.

The best way to find a good doctor is to first find the best hospital in your area, preferably a “teaching” hospital where physicians are trained. Ask the head of one of the hospital's major medical departments to recommend a doctor. Make an appointment to come in and speak with the doctor and don't forget to mention the highly respected person who recommended you. If the doctor refuses to meet with you for five minutes just to talk, find another--there are plenty of doctors in America. A good doctor should be willing to meet with and talk to a new person in the community.

Your own judgment should then come into play. The doctor should look old enough to have some experience. It's great to find a doctor who is friendly, but even better if he or she is businesslike. In a large city, where you have a great deal of choice, you can and should shop around for the best prices for medical treatment, if all other factors are equal. Like any other consumer purchase, the most expensive isn't always the best. The same guidelines apply if you are looking for a medical specialist. If your internist or general practitioner recommends someone you don't like, don't feel obligated to go to that physician. If you have a problem that you know needs a particular specialist--a skin problem, for example, that would require a dermatologist--by all means refer yourself to that specialist.

At the Doctor's Office. When you go to a doctor's office in the United States, you will have to deal with the doctor's secretary or assistant, both on the telephone or in person. Make sure you have all the information handy, especially regarding your medical insurance. Keep appointments, and come on time. These offices are often very busy. Nevertheless, if someone is rude or patronizing to you, make sure to let it be known that you won't tolerate such treatment.

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