A favorite method to capture patients is to circulate filmed interviews of doctors that can be widely seen on television, the internet and DVDs.
The clinicians are asked in the filming to reveal their values, interests and style of practice; giving the patient a brief look under the hood.
Somehow, most of the interviewed seem to say more or less the same things: they like to take walks (by a lake is best), read books, drink fine wines, bicycle and play with their Labradoodles. None have yet referenced pub crawling or pick pocketing as forms of recreation and fulfillment. Their style of practice is relentlessly collaborative - a partnership, whether you want to be a partner or not.
Altogether a picture of sameness and similarity emerges from the interviews, right out of the Big Mac playbook, which seems to make choosing a new doctor less burdensome, less of a choice.
The interviews suggest clinical competence which should be true for the vast majority of doctors.
Still, sniffing out a good doctor from advertisements can be perilous, especially at a time when medicine has evolved from craft, to profession, and now to commodity.
So what strategies exist as an alternative to the media blitz?
Nurses, moreover, are excellent referral sources as they, more than most, get to see physicians with the mask off. Most doctors I know are flattered when a patient is referred to them by a nurse.
Furthermore, don't hesitate to take the measure of the doctor yourself by scheduling a getting to know you appointment. Your intuitions and observations can be telling.
And don't forget the medical assistant. If they are bruised, the doctor probably is and you, by fallout, might be too. If the assistant cares about whether your dog recovered from his accident, the doctor probably does too. If the assistant seems out of control, the doctor might well be out of control too.
The point is that the assistant's manner and style often reflects the doctors, giving a sense of how the doctor's practice is run, a key variable in picking a doctor (read does it take four days for the doctor to return phone calls).
Finally, advice from George Bernard Shaw, who counseled patients to acquire a doctor whose father was rich, believing such a caregiver would order tests and procedures in a more measured way and might be able to spend more time with patients.
Outrageous, of course.
Worth a thought, of course.