One of the most important parts of your journey to a healthier heart is deciding who will be your regular heart doctor. Heart doctors (cardiologists) can vary greatly. Even though most adhere to the standard of care, their interpretations can lead to a wide range of treatment styles. Some may be more conservative by suggesting very minimal medicines and follow-up. Others tend to be more aggressive in their treatment of heart disease by recommending more medicines and frequent follow-up. Both conservative and aggressive styles are perfectly fine but you need to find a cardiologist with the style you prefer. It should ideally be someone you trust undoubtedly. When it comes to your heart care, you do not have time to second-guess every move your doctor makes!
If you prefer a cardiologist who is proactive when it comes to national guidelines and standard of care, I would recommend you search several websites. First, go to http://www.ncqa.org which is the website for The National Committee for Quality Assurance. NCQA is a not-for-profit organization that promotes quality care for patients. You can search their physician database to obtain a list of doctors who have passed the Heart/Stroke Recognition Program requirements. The list contains both primary care physicians and cardiologists.
If you cannot find a cardiologist in the NCQA list for your area, then look up cardiologists through a search engine on the internet (Google, MSN, Yahoo, etc). You will have to type in key words like “cardiologist” and the name of your city. You can also use your local phone directory or ask a friend.
Once you have a list of possible cardiologists for your area, I recommend you check out their credentials. By internet, you can view all types of information about any licensed provider through your state’s medical board website. To find your specific medical board website you can visit the American Medical Association’s webpage (link http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/education-careers/becoming-physician/medical-licensure/state-medical-boards.shtml) and click on your state in their list. Physicians who have passed the cardiology board exam will generally have this listed on the Medical Board website under Specialty Board Certifications. The Medical Board website can also tell you if the doctor has had any lawsuits settled against them. If you prefer not to use the internet, you can call the American Board of Medical Specialties (1-866-ASK-ABMS) with questions about a doctor’s certification.
After checking out their credentials, the next step would be to call the cardiologist’s office for an appointment. You will have to ask if they accept your insurance and if they are taking new patients. Many offices have more than one doctor in their group. If you really want to find the perfect match, consider asking a nurse, physician assistant or nurse practitioner about the doctors. You might say to them, “I’m looking for a doctor who will see me often and treat my heart disease aggressively.” Or you could say, “I’d like to see a doctor who is personable and open to alternative treatments.” Chances are they can guide you to the right person!
Submitted by: Sharon Masinelli, PA-C
Author of What To Do When You Have Heart Disease