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How to Choose a Good Brain Doctor

Finding the right medical team to help manage a brain disease is a crucial part of getting good treatment and care. Conditions and illnesses that affect the brain usually require visits to multiple specialists, including neurologists, psychiatrists, physical therapists, speech therapists, pain management specialists and more, depending on the brain condition.

If you have other diseases or conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, you will also have to continue to see the doctors who treat those health concerns.

Your primary care doctor or family doctor will probably start the process of diagnosis and care with a referral. Feel free to ask your doctor why he or she recommends a particular specialist.

If you have a reason for choosing a doctor other than the one your primary care doctor recommended, that is fine. Issues such as insurance, travel time and distance, and whether you know someone who has good things to say about a doctor are all part of the decision.

It is OK to "doctor shop." Visit a doctor and, if you do not like how you relate to that doctor, visit another specialist for comparison. (First check with your insurance, though, so you'll know whether this would be covered.)

What to Do Before You Go

  • Research the doctor online. Is he or she board-certified in the specialty that you need?
  • Find out if your health insurance covers the doctor's services.
  • Make sure you understand why you are going to this doctor.
  • Find out whether this doctor is taking new patients and how long you will have to wait for an appointment.
  • Talk to friends and neighbors to find out if anyone else has seen this doctor. You can also talk to other patients in the waiting room to find out about their experiences with the doctor's office, clinic or team.
  • Take a friend or family member with you to get a second opinion.

In the Office

Take a list of questions with you to the first visit. Feel free to ask how the specialist will communicate with other doctors who provide care for you and who else is on their team. Make sure you bring a complete list of medications you are taking for all health conditions, not just the one you are going to talk to the specialist about.

After Your Visit

Take some time to think about your experience with the doctor. Ask yourself whether he or she answered your questions. Did you feel that you could communicate with this doctor? Being able to talk to your doctor and feeling as if the doctor gives you time and really listens to you is one of the most important factors of a satisfying relationship.

This is particularly important for people with brain illnesses because often a family member is the primary caregiver once dementia, a brain tumor or brain injury starts to affect daily life. A doctor who takes the time to talk directly to a person with a brain illness, rather than about him or her with the caregiver, is the best doctor for that patient.

SOURCE: Northwestern University