With an estimated 20 million Americans suffering from a thyroid condition and 60% of adults living with at least one chronic condition, the need for a competent and thorough endocrinologist has never been greater. With many dealing with frustration and disappointment due to inadequate treatment, we compiled a list of the seven qualities to look for in your endocrinologist in order to receive quality care and improve your quality of life:
1. A doctor who actually reads medical journals
Often, standard practitioners are treating their patients 17 years behind the current scientific research and data. Why? In part, it is because many doctors are not reading recently published medical journals. Although your practitioner may claim to be reading medical journals, the fact is that the overwhelming majority of physicians rely on what they have learned in medical school as well as consensus statements by medical societies, such as the Endocrine Society, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists or the American Thyroid Association, to direct treatment decisions.
The lack of relevant data leads to patients paying for outdated and less effective treatment plans that do not yield optimal healing results. Relying on consensus data has been a problem for decades. In a 2009 study from the Journal of American Medical Association that looked at statements published by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, found that only 11% of the guidelines and consensus statements were based on quality evidence. Additionally, the study review found that over half of these guidelines and consensus statements were based on poor quality evidence that was little more than the panel’s opinion. The review also stated that these associations’ trusted medical recommendations (cited as legal standards) that were only supported by high-quality evidence 19% of the time and were not revised based on new evidence.
Therefore, ask if your potential doctor is doing their research. What studies have they been reading? Are they relying on consensus statements for their treatment plan? Unfortunately, the burden is on you, the patient, to ask your doctor these kinds of questions in order to consider if they are truly up to date on the current medical research.
2. A doctor who understands the limitations of standard thyroid tests
One of the biggest signs if you are seeing a competent endocrinologist is how they test the health of the thyroid. If they only adhere to the “gold standard” TSH level test, they are not the doctor for you. Far too many endocrinologists only test this hormone level to determine the health of a patient’s thyroid, which has left millions with undiagnosed thyroid conditions.
There are several issues with this method of testing. First, such endocrinologists do not even agree on a reference range for the TSH test. Some endocrinologists consider any number within the reference range (0.40 to 4.0 mIU/ml) “normal.” Others feel that TSH must be as high as 10 mIU/ml for a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. Moreover, this test negates the importance of Free T4, and Free T3 — the actual circulating thyroid hormones. Thus, a patient can have low levels of T4 and T3, but if their TSH is within the reference range, the endocrinologist may say it’s “normal.” This, again, is due to the lack of up-to-date and accurate consensus from the Endocrine Society, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and the American Thyroid Association as they fail to adjust or abandon recommendations when new understanding and knowledge contradicts their recommendations.
3. A doctor who will perform the tests you request
Unfortunately, insurance companies have become one of the main contributors to a lack of quality care. They base their definition of quality care primarily on keeping costs down. This influences how physicians practice medicine because they are often awarded with incentives for meeting insurance standards or penalized for falling short. For example, insurance companies often encourage physicians to send their patients to certain hospitals or specialists (because they’re less expensive for the insurance company), which can lead to inadequate care. There are also potential rewards for doctors who do not cover many diagnostic tools, medications, and treatments (either because they are considered too costly by insurance companies or because they are based on new advancements that have yet to reach mainstream medicine). As a result, a patient asking for a specific test to be performed (such as a thyroid panel that tests more than just TSH), may be denied and receive inadequate treatment that does not help improve their quality of life.
In order to receive optimal care, it is imperative to find a doctor that is willing to perform tests that you ask for and that align with your symptoms. A doctor who is unwilling to check various thyroid hormone levels for someone experiencing the symptoms of thyroid disease is not the doctor for you.
4. A doctor who wants to spend time with their patients
Another key indicator of an endocrinologist’s quality of care is the amount of time they spend with their patients. Patients can often feel just like a number with practitioners who want patients in and out of their office as quickly as possible.
This is also connected to insurance companies as doctors are rewarded for short visits and the number of patients they see, which prioritizes their financial gain over the health of the patient. In fact, the average primary care doctor in America spends 20 minutes per year with each patient as they see around 20 patients per day and have 2,300 patients total. This leads to a significant lack of individualized treatment plans and even more concerning, a significant amount of patients going un or misdiagnosed as 20 minutes is simply not enough time to understand which complex illness a patient may be battling.
At Holtorf Medical Group, your initial visit can be up to 60 minutes long and consists of an in-depth discussion of your health history between you and your doctor. This visit will allow you to ask any questions and discuss any current health concerns.
5. A doctor who understands that healing includes your diet
An individualized treatment plan is vital for helping patients regain their health and quality of life. An essential part of this is diet. Diet is at the core of integrative medicine as it allows healing to start from within.
The gut is an integral component of health and wellness as it is involved with nearly every bodily process and function. In fact, the gut is responsible for 75% of the body’s immune system, produces 95% of your serotonin, promotes healthy cholesterol, and much more. However, conventional doctors, even at top institutions, receive very little training in nutrition (approximately 19.6 hours of nutrition education) compared to the 500+ hours they receive in pharmacology. With the CDC estimating that 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes by 2050, diet is becoming increasingly relevant to the conversation around health in this country.
On average, only 6% of physicians cover diet and nutrition during office visits. Thus, a good way to discover if your endocrinologist values holistic healing is to ask how important diet is to their treatment plans.
6. A doctor who understands the interconnectivity of the body
Too many doctors consider mental and physical health separately, which leads to misdiagnosed conditions and suboptimal care. Often, psychological disorders such as anxiety, ADD/ADHD, and others have a physical component. 58% of the American diet comes from ultra-processed foods that promote inflammation, which in turn can lead to depression, fatigue, and other chronic conditions. Most standard practitioners’ answer to these symptoms is to mask the problem with traditional antidepressant therapies as evidenced by 76% of doctor’s visits ending in a prescription drug.
However, evidence-based lifestyle interventions such as a diet of gut-healing foods, exercise, meditation, and supplementation can often reverse symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.
7. A doctor who does more than just treat your symptoms
One of the most important qualities in a doctor is their desire to uncover the root cause of your symptoms. Masking and treating the symptoms will not help improve your quality of life in the long run and only postpones your recovery and healing process. Holtorf Medical Group was founded on the belief that every patient deserves to have the highest quality of care, compassion, and understanding when striving for a better quality of life. The holistic and innovative approach taken by our experienced doctors focuses on the individual while treating symptoms based on the root cause.
We are here for those who feel exhausted from trying to find a doctor to correctly address their condition and symptoms. On average, our patients have seen 7.2 doctors prior to seeing a Holtorf Medical Group provider for the treatment of Lyme disease, Fibromyalgia, or another chronic condition without significant improvement.
Because we specialize in being medical detectives to uncover the root cause of symptoms, rather than prescribing medications to mask your symptoms, 94% of our patients experience overall improvement by their fourth visit. Call 877-508-1177 to book your appointment today!