Women’s health is a very specialized medical field. Often, a female will find a doctor in her teens or early 20’s and remain with that trusted doctor, continuing to receive care well into later life. Selecting the “right” OB/GYN office can be overwhelming—how do you know you’ve chosen the right one? We asked other females and put our heads together to create what we think is a pretty reliable list.
Find a practice with longevity. It is comforting to know you are being seen in an office that has been around several years. A mature practice often means it has a solid reputation, stability and a dedicated employee base.
Research the practice’s accessibility. A practice with several convenient locations is a good sign they are a patient-centric group, making it easier for you to travel for an appointment or follow-up. Also, offices should be available during a decent stretch of the day. One of our offices, for example, can open for patients as early as 7 a.m. if necessary.
Check out the physician group itself. Are there both male and female physicians? Be sure to check a website for certifications and credentials. Many hospitals and healthcare organizations look to recruit physicians with reputable medical schooling and fellowships at noteworthy hospitals. This can help create expertise and options within the practice.
Confirm the availability of in-office and on-site testing. This should be a no-brainer, but you might be surprised how many facilities will direct a patient to a different location for something as simple as a routine lab test. In-office testing should include urine tests and ultrasounds. Conveniently located close to the office (ideally, walking distance) should be a lab for more thorough blood or specimen analysis and a diagnostic imaging department with a full range of capabilities.
Avoid conversations with robots. When you call the practice, are you always required to leave a voicemail requesting a callback? Do you follow six or seven prompts before reaching a receptionist? We feel making the patient comfortable from the first phone call is critical. There is always a real person answering the phones here – and our patients often tell us they appreciate the personal touch.
Ask how quickly you may be seen. You want an OB/GYN practice that recognizes the need for urgent appointments. We heard a horror story once about a woman who had a miscarriage and her OB/GYN waited two days to return the call! Offices that adopt flexible scheduling policies can really foster a sense of respect for their patients. We can schedule same-day and emergency appointments with our on-call physician.
Look for a practice where you are always welcome. We get to know our patients inside and out. And, in return, they get to know us pretty well, too. We have patients who call us several times each week, and some who only call on rare occasion. To us, it doesn’t matter – we are here for every patient when they need us. The staff of receptionists, medical assistants and any pre-natal coordinator(s) should be respectful, available and helpful. Our staff often helps match patients to the right physician – compatible personalities can go a long way in the doctor-patient relationship, and we can help give our patients the best possible experience.
There are, of course, a lot of other things to consider, but this list can definitely help give you guidance and get you started… Is your office part of a teaching hospital? You should always agree before being seen by any medical student. Does the office have access to community resources for maternity and gynecology patients—things like WIC, financial counseling, etc.? Is there after-hours support? (Answer: There should always be a number where you can leave a message and get a return call quickly!)
Bottom line: Sometimes taking the recommendation of one of two friends is okay. But when it comes to being an advocate to your health, we urge you to do your homework, call around and ask the right questions. Ultimately, you’re the one who needs to feel comfortable in the OB/GYN practice you’ve selected.
Rebecca Ricardi, Prenatal Coordinator
Cheryl Servant, Medical Assistant/Triage
Harrington Physician Services OB/GYN Practice