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11 Things to Consider When Looking for a Doctor

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The doctor you choose can have a huge impact on your health and no two doctors are the same—so how do you find the best one for you? Here are 11 considerations to take into account when making your decision.  

1. YOUR SITUATION

It sounds obvious, but it’s worth some serious thought. What are you looking for in a doctor? Are you generally healthy or do you have ongoing medical issues? Do you want someone who can give you a quick checkup and get you on your way, or do you need time and attention? Are you looking for a specialist or a primary care physician? How often do you expect to see this person? 

2. GENDER

Do you care about your doctor’s gender? Will you be comfortable being examined and treated by men and women equally, or do you have a preference? If you do have strong feelings, congratulations! You’ve just simplified your search. 

3. LOCATION

Would you rather have a doctor near your home or near your workplace? How far away is too far? Is the office easily accessible by public transportation, if you use it? 

4. METHODS

Are you looking for an old-fashioned doctor? One who’s up on the latest research and experimental approaches? Do you want—or want to avoid—practitioners of alternative medicine?

5. PERSONALITY AND PRACTICES

How well you click with your care team can affect your care. Some people prefer their doctors to be certain and authoritative. Other people are looking for a more collaborative approach. Do you like a straight shooter or would you prefer a doctor who employs a more diplomatic approach? Pay attention in your interactions. Does the doctor listen without interrupting? Does she look at you or at her computer?

6. OFFICE

How do office staff members treat you on the phone? Do you trust them to pass along your messages? What kind of hours is the office open? Can the office accommodate early, evening, or weekend appointments if you need them? Do they make medical records available to patients online? Is it hard to schedule an appointment? Is there a waiting list?

7. EXPERIENCE WITH YOUR CONCERNS

If you live with chronic illness or other ongoing health problems, you’ll be seeing a lot of your doctor. There are thousands of medical conditions, and no doctor knows them all. Look for someone who is familiar with, and understands, what you’re going through—or someone who’s open to learning. 

8. INSURANCE

Another obvious one, but worth looking into. Insurance companies and medical practitioners change their policies all the time, but they don’t always update their websites. If you’ve found a practitioner that might be a good fit, call their office and ask directly if they accept your insurance. It’s better to do the legwork on the front end than to get burned later.

9. REPUTATION

Ask around. Talk to your coworkers, if they share your insurance plan, and ask who they’d recommend and why. Check out Best Doctor listings online. Once you’ve narrowed it down, look on review sites like ZocDoc or Yelp to see what other patients are saying. If you’re living with chronic illness, reach out to other people with your condition to ask who they see and who they’d avoid.

10. RED FLAGS

If you’ve got a doctor in mind, do a quick search to rule out any obvious red flags. State medical associations maintain up-to-date lists of doctors who have had their licenses suspended or revoked, or those who are facing disciplinary action. It’s also pretty easy to find out if, and how often, a doctor has been sued for malpractice. 

11. CERTIFICATION

Board certification is a kind of guarantee that a doctor is educated, capable, and informed. The American Board of Medical Specialties maintains a database of board-certified doctors here.

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science
New Patient Test Could Suggest Whether Therapy or Meds Will Work Better for Anxiety
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Like many psychological disorders, there's no one-size-fits-all treatment for patients with anxiety. Some might benefit from taking antidepressants, which boost mood-affecting brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Others might respond better to therapy, and particularly a form called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

Figuring out which form of treatment works best often requires months of trial and error. But experts may have developed a quick clinical test to expedite this process, suggests a new study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have noted that patients with higher levels of anxiety exhibit more electrical activity in their brains when they make a mistake. They call this phenomenon error-related negativity, or ERN, and measure it using electroencephalography (EEG), a test that records the brain's electric signals.

“People with anxiety disorders tend to show an exaggerated neural response to their own mistakes,” the paper’s lead author, UIC psychiatrist Stephanie Gorka, said in a news release. “This is a biological internal alarm that tells you that you've made a mistake and that you should modify your behavior to prevent making the same mistake again. It is useful in helping people adapt, but for those with anxiety, this alarm is much, much louder.”

Gorka and her colleagues wanted to know whether individual differences in ERN could predict treatment outcomes, so they recruited 60 adult volunteers with various types of anxiety disorders. Also involved was a control group of 26 participants with no history of psychological disorders.

Psychiatrists gauged subjects’ baseline ERN levels by having them wear an EEG cap while performing tricky computer tasks. Ultimately, they all made mistakes thanks to the game's challenging nature. Then, randomized subjects with anxiety disorders were instructed to take an SSRI antidepressant every day for three months, or receive weekly cognitive behavioral therapy for the same duration. (Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of evidence-based talk therapy that forces patients to challenge maladaptive thoughts and develop coping mechanisms to modify their emotions and behavior.)

After three months, the study's patients took the same computer test while wearing EEG caps. Researchers found that those who'd exhibited higher ERN levels at the study's beginning had reduced anxiety levels if they'd been treated with CBT compared to those treated with medication. This might be because the structured form of therapy is all about changing behavior: Those with enhanced ERN might be more receptive to CBT than other patients, as they're already preoccupied with the way they act.

EEG equipment sounds high-tech, but it's relatively cheap and easy to access. Thanks to its availability, UIC psychiatrists think their anxiety test could easily be used in doctors’ offices to measure ERN before determining a course of treatment.

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Food
A Pitless Avocado Wants to Keep You Safe From the Dreaded 'Avocado Hand'
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The humble avocado is a deceptively dangerous fruit. Some emergency room doctors have recently reported an uptick in a certain kind of injury—“avocado hand,” a knife injury caused by clumsily trying to get the pit out of an avocado with a knife. There are ways to safely pit an avocado (including the ones likely taught in your local knife skills class, or simply using a spoon), but there’s also another option. You could just buy one that doesn’t have a pit at all, as The Telegraph reports.

British retailer Marks & Spencer has started selling cocktail avocados, a skinny, almost zucchini-like type of avocado that doesn’t have a seed inside. Grown in Spain, they’re hard to find in stores (Marks & Spencer seems to be the only place in the UK to have them), and are only available during the month of December.

The avocados aren’t genetically modified, according to The Independent. They grow naturally from an unpollinated avocado blossom, and their growth is stunted by the lack of seed. Though you may not be able to find them in your local grocery, these “avocaditos” can grow wherever regular-sized Fuerte avocados grow, including Mexico and California, and some specialty producers already sell them in the U.S. Despite the elongated shape, they taste pretty much like any other avocado. But you don’t really need a knife to eat them, since the skin is edible, too.

If you insist on taking your life in your hand and pitting your own full-sized avocado, click here to let us guide you through the process. No one wants to go to the ER over a salad topping, no matter how delicious. Safety first!

[h/t The Telegraph]

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