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In many ways, shopping for a good physician is like shopping for anything else. You want to be treated right, you want the best for your money, and you want something or someone with a good reputation. Doctors are not unlike plumbers, lawyers, or car dealers; there are good ones and bad ones. Just because a person has M.D. behind his/her name does not necessarily make him/her a good physician.

If you were buying a new automobile, you would shop around for the best dealer who had the best selection, offered the best prices, and had the best service. Finding a good doctor requires the same type of shopping.

Here are some pointers for helping you find just the right doctor for you:

* Get lists of doctors from hospitals, hotlines, or referral services. Inquire what criteria is used to include a physician on a referral list; in other words, make certain it isn't just a name on a list, that some quality assurances were included.
* Check with friends, acquaintances and other family members. Word of mouth is often reliable.
* Narrow your selections and contact the doctors' offices. Speak to office personnel. Quite often you can learn a lot about a doctor by the staff he/she hires.
* You want a physician who will let you be a partner in your treatment, not one who will tell you what may be "planned for" you. You want to hear about the range of possible treatments, his recommendations, and then be allowed to make your own decisions.
* You want a doctor who will take as much time as needed to make certain you understand the nature of your illness and details of your treatment. A good doctor will give you time to ask questions.

In the end, the most reliable resource is you. You won't really know if he/she is the right doctor for you until you are sitting across the desk from him/her. You'll know it's a match when personalities mesh.