Top Tips for Choosing a Cardiologist

Tips for Choosing a Cardiologist

Choosing the best cardiologist for your needs is a unique and personal decision. However, it’s simultaneously a choice that has far more factors than gut instinct alone. Does a particular doctor keep up with the latest guidance and regulations? Do they know the ins and outs of your specific condition? In order to make the best decision when it comes to a cardiologist, there are some tips you should keep in mind.

Ask your doctor for recommendations.

When you first set out to find a good cardiologist or another specialist, you should always begin by consulting your primary care physician. Ideally, this should already be a health care provider whom you trust—so why not trust their judgment in leading you to a cardiologist, too?

In many cases, your doctor will know reputable local specialists, whether through their years of medical school or the time they’ve actively practiced. They may even be affiliated with a hospital that has a great cardiology department! One way or another, your doctor will likely have recommendations at the ready. So long as you trust them to provide the best care, you’ll likely find this guidance to be unparalleled.

Talk to your insurance company.

Like it or not, medical care is expensive, especially if you’re living in the United States. So, one of your top priorities in selecting a cardiologist should be finding one that’s covered by your insurance policy.

Your insurance company’s website is typically a great resource at this stage—just look for a search tool or provider directory to find in-network providers. While there, check out your coverage options for out-of-network providers, if applicable, and review any copays or other hurdles that may otherwise interfere with your treatment plans. If you run into any issues or struggle to find the information you’re looking for online, be sure to contact your insurance provider directly. There are liaisons waiting to lend a hand

Inquire with friends and family.

Of course, your primary care physician and insurance company are both fantastic resources in helping you to choose a cardiac surgeon or specialist. But you may be overlooking another incredible tool—the recommendations of your friends and family members. For instance, many individuals with heart concerns actually have a family history of heart disease. If that’s the case for your family, it’s unsurprising that your loved ones have a cardiologist they can recommend!

If you don’t have family members who can suggest their own interventional cardiologist or other specialist, you may have a friend who can make a similar recommendation. Or, if not your friends, your friends’ friends may have recommendations to share through your friend, who acts as an intermediary! Put simply, the people around you are likely to see a cardiologist, or know someone who does—any one of them may adore their specialist and be ready to recommend them to anyone who’ll listen!

Check out credentials.

At this point, you should have at least a recommended cardiologist or two to consider. How do you decide between those specialists who are covered by your insurance plan and come highly recommended?

A physician’s credentials are some of the most helpful traits you can turn to in making the best choice of cardiologist. Do you know that a particular medical school educates some of the greatest cardiologists in the area? Consider looking for cardiologists who’ve studied in that particular program. The same principle can apply to a particular school, department, or other affiliation. No matter what credential it is you admire—or what you now learn is worth seeking out—you can use this consideration to determine the best cardiologist for you and your heart

Uncover your preferences.

No matter how well-reviewed a particular cardiologist may be, or how incredible their credentials are, there may be specialists you just don’t seem to get on with. That’s okay! Cardiologists, like all doctors, are people just like you, and it’s natural that you won’t connect with each one.

Rather than struggle to build a connection with a cardiologist who just isn’t a good fit, take some time to study yourself and what it is you look for in a specialist like this. If you’ve already tried a doctor who didn’t seem to be a good match, ask yourself the opposite question: what was it about this doctor that didn’t strengthen your relationship? For instance, you might find that a particular gender or cultural background makes for a better match. Whether that means seeking out female cardiologists, in particular, or looking for someone of the same race or ethnicity, these factors may help you to be more comfortable with your cardiology specialist.

Study the hospital.

As with other specialists, you’ll find that the average cardiologist is affiliated with a particular cardiology center or hospital. It’s crucial that not only your doctor is a good fit; the hospital or broader department should be, too. After all, this institution will be behind every action and decision your specialist is able to make. Or, if your typical doctor isn’t available, you may have to make do with another. Of course, you want that alternative option to be a good fit, too!

In a perfect world, every hospital could participate in the latest research, train and hire the most qualified physicians, and be at the top of their field. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in reality—every hospital and doctor has particular specialties and experience. So, it’s crucial that you pay close attention to both the doctor you’re considering and their broader institution. What qualities are most important to you?

Pay attention to their communication style.

No number of years of medical training can make a great heart doctor if the doctor themself doesn’t have a heart. Ideally, your cardiologist should communicate in a way that complements your own preference, whether that’s providing only need-to-know information during your examination or carefully explaining why they order tests or perform procedures

Of course, it can be challenging to understand a particular specialist’s communication style from afar. However, you can often get a decent idea by interacting with their office staff and doing your due diligence when it comes to researching a potential doctor. In the worst-case scenario, you can rethink the relationship after your first appointment. If you attend your appointment with a particular cardiologist and find their communication to be incompatible with your own, you’re always free to seek out an alternative physician.

Consult previous patients.

As you’re researching a potential provider, you’ll find that their previous patients are some of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. These individuals are the most genuine experts and can offer additional information and insights into the patient experience you can expect. They’ve been through the process of working with this physician already, from undergoing physical exams or medical procedures to preventing heart failure or undergoing cardiac surgery.

They may not share your doctor’s extensive education or years of training, but these patients can give you incomparable insight into what you can expect if you choose to work with a particular doctor. For instance, if you’re seeking cardiovascular care and a certain doctor is more likely to recommend a new exercise program, particular diet, or other lifestyle changes than they are to prescribe some sort of cardiovascular medicine to treat your heart condition, you may decide that a different specialist is a better fit.

Research your specific condition.

While this tip might not benefit those who are seeking a cardiologist for the sake of routine wellness, it can be a game-changer for those who are visiting this specialist with particular cardiovascular disorders (or, for that matter, those seeking a specialist of any kind to treat a specific condition). If you research the diagnosis you’re dealing with, you may find that certain doctors stand out as experts within this specific field of medicine. Better yet, those experts may be even more accessible than you realize.

In researching your diagnosis, you’ll find that certain individuals or affiliations stand out as top contributors to research and developments having to do with your heart condition. Some destinations, like the Mayo Clinic or Cleveland Clinic, are known around the world as cardiology stand-outs. Others, like Dr. Bereliani, are closer to home yet experienced nevertheless—Dr. B has years of experience in preventive medicine, health medicine, and cardiology.

Follow your intuition.

When push comes to shove, your choice of cardiologist comes down to whether or not you’re happy with the pairing, not the credentials a specialist has or what another patient has to say. Even the country’s top doctors can prove to not be the right match!

With that in mind, it’s crucial that you follow your gut in selecting a specialist, whether that’s a cardiologist or someone within another branch of medicine. This is one tip that you’ll have to unravel on a personal level—no one but you yourself can tell you whether you’ve found the right doctor on an intuitive level.

A doctor’s scope of practice goes far beyond their specialty. From their education and experience to the way they communicate, any doctor may or may not be a good fit for a particular patient. In any case, it’s up to you to decide whether your cardiologist is the right doctor for you.

Author
Arash Bereliani, M.D., M.S., F.A.C.C. Beverly Hills Institute For Cardiology & Preventive Medicine

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