If your roster of health-care practitioners requires a Rolodex of its own, here’s how to reevaluate just how many doctors you need. While some people with complicated illnesses require a battery of specialists, chances are you don’t need a dermatologist for your eczema, an ear-nose-throat doc for your post-nasal drip, and a registered dietician to lose those extra 10 pounds. Now that Eastern and Western medicine are inching closer together, there is a growing emphasis on looking at the whole body; after all, you are one functioning unit rather than a series of independent systems.
Paring down your list of doctors will not only save you time and money, it will save you the hassle of keeping all of your doctors up-to-date on your changing health. In addition, all of your medical information and history will be kept in one or two places, rather than scattered across a city, and you can develop a more focused working relationship with the one or two doctors you keep.
A primary-care physician. It’s a good idea to have a medical doctor who can deal with a variety of health concerns and has practicing rights at a hospital, just in case. The good news is that if you regularly include complementary therapies such as acupuncture or herbal supplements as part of your health care, a growing number of physicians now offer nutritional or alternative options alongside their traditional practices. Search around for M.D.s who include holistic therapies as a part of their care.
An OB/GYN. Most women will visit their gynecologist for their reproductive care, but more than half of them do not seek any other medical or preventative care. This has caused many OB/GYNs to fill that gap and broaden their practice to provide more inclusive services. Though some gynecologists do not wish to fill the role of a primary-care physician, many find that a general approach to overall female health is within their capabilities and goals. Talk to your gynecologist to find out what she recommends.
Family Practice Doctors. If you have a house full of people of different ages and needs, this might be your best option. Family-practice physicians, unlike pediatricians or internists, provide comprehensive care for all members of the family. So if Dad and daughter both have the flu, and Mom needs a routine PAP, one visit to one doctor is all that is needed.
Nurse-Midwives. If you are having a baby, nurse midwives focus on pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care of mother and baby. In addition, they provide routine reproductive and primary care to all women.
A Dentist. There’s just no getting around it: no other practitioner does what your dentist does, so keep going.
Remember, if your doctor says you need to seek a specialist’s care, do. But checking to find out if one of your “team” of doctors can tend to most of your health needs will simplify the jungle of options.
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