Like reviews of restaurants and plumbers, these days doctors can be rated six Internet ways from Sunday. Some sites are fair, useful and worth your time; some provide more opportunities to vent than to advise. We looked at the doc-rating phenomenon in “The Ups and Downs of Patient Ratings of Doctors.”
When it comes to medical provider reviews, there’s an undeniable cred-boost if the info provider is a member of the class under scrutiny. Writing on KevinMd.com, Dr. Jennifer Gunter, who practices obstetrics and gynecology, offers guidance on how to rate your ob/gyn and, if he or she is found wanting, to find a better provider.
In general, she looks for communication skills: “how a doctor discusses options if the care seems valid or if a second option is in order,” and the ability to explain a treatment plan as it relates to recommended guidelines. She also looks for board certification.
When patients come to her with tales of medical misadventure, sometimes, she writes, “they make me want to shout, ‘Your doctor did/said what?!’ These are red flags, because not only are these recommendations potentially harmful, but if your doctor recommends one thing that is so flagrantly bad, well, uh, um, how can you trust the rest of their care?”
Precisely. So here are her six red flags that should prompt you to seek ob/gyn care from someone else.
1. Giving you a prescription for estrogen-containing birth control (pills, patch or ring) without inquiring about migraines. Migraines with aura are an absolute contraindication to estrogen-containing birth control because of an increased risk of stroke. A doctor’s failure to inquire about migraines indicates unfamiliarity with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
2. Blaming pelvic pain on pelvic organ prolapse. Prolapse is not a cause of pelvic pain. It causes a bulge and a feeling that something is coming out of the vagina, but it does not cause pain. A doctor who thinks the two are related knows nothing about prolapse and even less about pain. Or just wants to operate.
3. Booking you for incontinence surgery without a bladder diary (a log that measures input and outgo for 48 hours) and a post-void residual (a test to ensure you empty your bladder correctly). This simple diary and test can distinguish people who can (and can’t) be helped by surgery, as well as indicate some people who could be even worse after surgery.
4. Dismissing your concerns about pain with sex. Painful sex, called dyspareunia, is not normal: Sex should not hurt. If it does, taking a complete history and conducting an appropriate exam are in order. Many medical conditions can cause painful intercourse and not one of them is “It’s all in your head.”
5. Giving you a prescription for fluconazole (Diflucan) if you also take a statin drug for high cholesterol. These two medications can interact with fatal results and should not be given together, especially for a routine yeast infection.
6. Blaming pelvic pain on pressure from fibroids. Fibroids are benign tumors of the uterine muscle that can cause irregular or heavy bleeding, but they do not cause chronic pain. Sometimes, when they outgrow their blood supply, they degenerate into an acutely painful condition, but that can be diagnosed with imaging studies, and is not chronic pain. A large fibroid uterus would weigh 1 pound, so if a 1-pound uterine resident caused severe daily pain, how could pregnancy ever be endured?