What to know when choosing the right doctor for you

doctor-smiling-and-speaking-with-patient

A lot of factors come into play when finding a new primary care doctor: Are they located nearby? Will they listen to me? Can I get an appointment in a timely manner? Do they accept my insurance?

Another factor often overlooked is the difference between the two letters after their name—MD or DO. What should you know about these two types of doctor as open enrollment quickly approaches?

What’s the difference between MDs and DOs?

For starters, MD is a doctor of medicine, and a DO is a doctor of osteopathic medicine. They are both doctors licensed to practice medicine in the U.S. and are similarly educated and certified. The difference rests in their training and philosophy of patient care.

MDs focus on a diagnosis and treatment of a disease, also known as allopathic medicine. DOs also diagnose and treat symptoms while viewing the patient with a more holistic lens that examines all aspects of the body.

Both MDs and DOs follow a similar nine-plus-year education path. They earn bachelor’s degrees. Then, they have four years of medical school to learn the ins and outs of anatomy, physiology and pharmacology.

What is a DO?

A health reform movement began in the 19th century called Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT). It emphasizes preventive care and discourages the overuse of medications to allow the body to heal on its own. DOs adhere to this treatment philosophy along with receiving 200 hours of training in the musculoskeletal system.

While MDs do not take part in this program, many understand the importance of preventative care and practice OMT standards to help their patients live well-balanced lives.

DOs practice this by treating patients through physical touch, performing hands-on healing to focus on the body’s interconnected system of nerves, muscles and bones. Often times, doctors use the OMT method to treat muscle pain that can help patients with asthma, sinus disorder, migraines and more. Many MDs also believe in this holistic method and look at a patient's environment, nutrition and body system when treating medical conditions.

The truth about MDs and DOs

According to a study published in the Journal Osteopathic Medicine and Primary Care, researchers at University of North Texas found little to no difference between MD and DO primary care doctors when it came to time spent with patients, how much they focused on prevention or how often they brought up lifestyle issues, like exercising, stress and nutrition.

According to the American Osteopathic Association, there is a recorded 65% increase in DOs since 2006, from 61,648 physicians in the U.S. to 102,137. In comparison, MDs make up approximately 1 million medical professionals in the U.S., according to the Federation of State Medical Boards.

When it comes to choosing the right doctor, it’s personal. Take into consideration reviews from friends and family, but most importantly make sure you consult with a physician, MD or DO, that you feel comfortable, open and honest with to make the right healthcare decisions for you and your family.

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23 Comments

  • KA says:
    What evidence is there for the efficacy of hands-on healing?  What are your thoughts on osteopathy being labeled by some as pseudoscience?  Do core MD education and principles not also look at a patient's environment and nutrition to treat medical conditions?
  • Derald says:
    Thank you for telling me the difference between Mds & Dos but I
    prefer a well rounded MD.
  • Barbara Wilson says:
    its a pity that you don't address nurse practitioners as primary care providers.  they are becoming an increasingly important member of the healthcare team, particularly for rural and medically underserved populations.
  • John Howe Sr. says:
    This is GREAT information, I have often wondered the difference between the two Medical Paths. I now feel very informed and can choose my medical person a lot better for what my needs are.
    Thank you VERY MUCH for this information.
  • Jack Duff says:
    I like that you mentioned to make sure you choose somebody you feel you can be open and honest with. That way, you can be sure you are going to be comfortable sharing all the necessary details about you and your family. I need to find a new doctor, cause my family and I just moved to a new state. I will keep this in mind, thanks.
  • Hannah Neilson says:
    Thanks for saying that you want a primary care physician who is located nearby. It would be good to consider this because it would ensure that you can see them quickly in an emergency. My brother is looking for a new family doctor, so he'll have to find one that is close by.
  • Callum Palmer says:
    If I am completely honest I had never even heard of an MD or a DO before. However, it is nice to know that these two types of doctors are pretty much the same. I imagine that that makes it much easier to find a primary care provider that will help you with most of your ailments. 
  • Ellie Davis says:
    Thank you for pointing out that MDs focus of diagnosing and treating a diseases. My family just moved into a new town and we are going to need to find a new doctor. I'll have to look around and see if we can find the best clinic in our area. 
  • James Lee Tucker says:
    I like how you talked about finding a doctor by asking friends and family. We are new in this city, and I want to be prepared in case someone in my family gets sick. I'll ask around my co-workers or neighbors to see if they can refer a good family doctor.
  • garypuntman says:
    I didn't know that an MD and DO are quite a bit different. It's good to know that DOs have a more holistic lens. It sounds like that's a good choice of doctor for me. 
  • Jordan says:
    I've been wanting to find a good doctor, and I think that being able to get some tips would be nice. I like that you talked about how you want to look at the difference between MD's and DO's. I'm going to have to pay attention to what kind of doctors I go to and see what we can find!
  • Millie Hue says:
    I like that you mentioned that it is best to ask your family and friends for recommendations to help you find the right doctor and facility for your needs. This will really help me find a doctor that can check my child since my child has been suffering from headaches lately. As a parent, I am really worried as to what the cause might be, so thanks a lot for the tips.
  • Monica Chavez says:
    It was interesting to learn that DOs diagnose and treat symptoms while viewing the patient with a more holistic lens that examines all aspects of the body. My sister and her family just recently moved to a new city, and they need to find a new primary care doctor who is located closer to them. I think it's a good idea for them to consider the differences between an MD and a DO so that they can figure out what would work best for them. 
  • Ken Hwan says:
    I never knew that a doctor with an MD after their name means that they specialize in a certain part of the body, while DO means that they are a more general doctor. My wife has been experiencing some pain in her back recently, so I want to try and find her some medication to help with the pain. After reading your article, I will be sure to look for a doctor that specializes in back pain!
  • rachel frampton says:
    I've been searching for a good family doctor for a while and really liked this article because it differentiates MDs from DOs. I had never considered going with a doctor of osteopathic medicine instead of a traditional MD, but I like that you mention they look at a more holistic view of the body and health. I think I will have to consider a DO for our family doctor. 
  • Sariah Meagle says:
    My brother was not feeling well for a while and may need to go to a doctor. It was explained here that doctors are licensed and are trained for diagnosis and treatment. Moreover, it's advisable to go to a doctor when sick.
  • Katie Wilson says:
    I agree that you need to make sure that your doctor is licensed and experienced first. Finding out what kind of training and specialization they have would be one way to go about this. My husband and I are looking for a doctor, so we'll have to check their license first.
  • Sutton says:
    I like how you said that when it comes to choosing the right doctor, it’s personal. I need to go to the gastroenterology clinic next week. Thank you for the tips on choosing the right doctor for you. 
  • Duncan Lance says:
    Wow, I did not realize that there were so many things to look for when choosing a doctor. However, it is easy to understand why these factors matter; after all, the doctor will be helping you with any pain or health issues you have. It might even help to sit down with them for an initial consultation to determine whether or not they are the right kind of doctor for you. 
  • Amy Winters says:
    I'm glad you pointed out that research shows little to no difference between how much time MD and DO doctors spend with their patients. My husband and i recently moved to a new area, so I've been trying to find a primary care physician to rely on for preventative healthcare. I want a doctor that spends time getting to know me and my health, so thanks for letting me know that an MD and DO will be about the same in that area. 
  • Kit Hannigan says:
    Thanks for explaining how people should look for an MD if they are looking to get diagnosed and be treated with their disease. My son thinks he has more than the flu since it refuses to go away. He is getting worried about his condition, so I will be sure to advise him to look for an MD that can properly diagnose his illness and treat it accordingly.
  • Derek Dewitt says:
    I just moved to a new area so I am looking for a doctor for my family. I like your point about how MDs and DOs both have 9+ years of education. I'll be sure to find someone with these qualifications so I know we're getting the best care.
  • Jocelyn McDonald says:
    My family just moved to a new area, and we're on the lookout for a new doctor to start visiting. Your article had some great tips regarding this, and I liked how you said to hire someone that to consider visiting an MD, as these doctors focus on diagnosis and treatment of a disease. Thanks; we'll keep this in mind when choosing someone like this.

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