Sep 6, 2013 -
If you're like most people, you've been going to physicians ever since you were born, but you're unaware that some are Allopathic Physicians (MDs) and others are Osteopathic Physicians (DOs). Both DOs and MDs are fully qualified physicians licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery the United States, although there are some differences.
DOs and MDs are Alike in Many Ways
- Students entering both DO and MD medical colleges typically have already completed four-year bachelor's degrees with an emphasis on scientific courses.
- Both DOs and MDs complete four years of basic medical education.
- After medical school, both DOs and MDs obtain graduate medical education through internships, residencies and fellowships. This training lasts three to eight years and prepares DOs and MDs to practice a specialty.
- Both DOs and MDs can choose to practice in any specialty of medicine—such as pediatrics, family medicine, psychiatry, surgery or ophthalmology.
- DOs and MDs must pass comparable examinations to obtain state licenses.
- DOs and MDs both practice in accredited and licensed health care facilities.
- Together, DOs and MDs enhance the state of health care available in the U.S.
While DOs and MDs have many things in common, osteopathic medicine is a parallel branch of American medicine with a distinct philosophy and approach to patient care. DOs can bring an extra dimension to your health care through their unique skills.
The Osteopathic Approach
For more than a century, osteopathic physicians have built a tradition of bringing health care to where it is needed most:
- Approximately 60% of practicing osteopathic physicians practice in the primary care specialties of family medicine, general internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology.
- Many DOs fill a critical need for physicians by practicing in rural and other medically underserved communities.
In addition, these modern-day pioneers practice on the cutting edge of medicine. DOs combine today's medical technology with their ears to listen caringly to their patients, with their eyes to see their patients as whole persons, and with their hands to diagnose and treat patients for injury and illness.
Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are registered nurses with advanced degrees and training in the diagnosis and treatment of illness. NPs function completely independently in some States, legally referred to as having, “Full Practice Privileges.” Other States have rules that prohibit NPs from providing at least one element of patient care without a formal collaborative agreement with a fully licensed physician (MD or DO). Legally this is referred to as “Reduced Practice Privileges.” Lastly, some States require NPs to be under the complete supervision of a physician, and this is referred to as, “Restricted Practice Privileges.”
In the State of Connecticut NPs have “Reduced Practice Privileges” and must have a formal collaborative agreement with a licensed physician.”
Board certification indicates that doctors are highly trained in the specialty they practice. They've had three or more years of training beyond medical school, practiced that specialty for a specified number of years, and passed an examination. To remain certified, doctors must attend continuing medical education programs throughout their careers.
Steps to finding a primary care physician
Look for a doctor when you're healthy.
No one likes to make important decisions when they’re sick, and chances are, picking a primary care physician in a bind won’t allow you the time to carefully gather information to make sure you are choosing the right primary care for you.
Vary your sources
Make sure you get opinions from all different angles to ensure a thorough search. Ask at work or call your health insurance representative for a list of primary care doctors in your plan. In most cases, your out-of-pocket expenses will be less if you choose a participating doctor. Then follow up by asking coworkers, friends or relatives who they trust.
Check each primary care doctor's credentials.
Call your local state medical or osteopathic board. It provides basic professional information on virtually every licensed medical or osteopathic doctor in your state. The listing includes the medical school the doctor attended and any postgraduate training.
Meet the potential primary care doctor in person.
Choosing a primary care physician is more than just credentials – it’s about trust and chemistry too. So before you decide on a doctor, make an appointment. When you go, don’t forget to evaluate the staff, facility and nurses, too. Also, keep in mind that insurance won't pay for a doctor's visit that's not for a checkup or for a health problem, so you should schedule the visit with the intent of establishing care.
After the visit: was that the right primary doctor for me?
Here are some potential questions to ask:
- How can I reach you in an emergency?
- Is it always necessary to make an appointment, or will you or a nurse answer routine questions over the phone?
- Who provides care for your patients in your absence?
- Has a medical specialty board certified you? If so, in what specialty area?
- At what hospitals do you have privileges? (Make sure the hospital is covered by your insurance.)
So you went through all the steps, picked a primary care, set up an appointment and asked all the right questions – now what? The next step is evaluating whether you are happy with your chosen doctor. Ask yourself: Was I treated courteously by the doctor and the office staff? Were all of my questions answered? Did I feel rushed or dismissed? Do I agree with the doctor's office policies and wellness philosophy?
If you are, congratulations; you just found yourself a primary care physician.
If you are not satisfied, check with your insurer to see if you can visit another doctor on your list without paying the full cost of the visit. Even if they say no, it will be well worth the copay to find a doctor you are happy and comfortable with.
You may want to consider how unsatisfied you feel. Just like you and me, doctors have good and bad days and sometimes the first time you meet it is hard to get a full sense of what a new patient needs.
Therefore, it's important to have a trial period with your prospective doctor to make sure you're comfortable, have clear lines of communication and receive excellent care. Either way, go with your gut.
If you are looking for a primary care physician in Eastern Connectitcut, ECHN makes it easy to find a doctor that fits your needs. Visit echn.org/Find-a-Doctor or download the MyECHN Mobile App
! today for easy mobile access to all your healthcare needs. Find a physician, locate an office, get directions, keep track of important health information, and more.
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