In Florida, as with any state that has a legal medical marijuana program, the first step in obtaining legal status as a patient is finding a doctor to recommend cannabis. Known as a “Qualifying Physician” within the law, any physician that is an M.D. or a D.O. may take the 2-hour course. Once they’ve successfully passed the state’s test, they’re then added to the provider rolls.
With almost 2,000 Qualifying Physicians and no uniform pricing structure or standard of care, it can be overwhelming to patients to find the right choice for their care in the Sunshine state.
From my experience within Florida’s legal system and having cared for thousands of patients, I’ve compiled a helpful instructional guide to help you find a good doctor to help you begin (or continue) your green journey.
What are your Goals?
Before beginning your search for a Qualifying Physician, it’s a good idea to identify what your individual needs are and what level of help you require. Cannabis is a unique medicine in that, unlike conventional treatment regimens (pharmaceutical), the patient is put in direct control of their own treatment.
“Take three of these pills a day and see me back in 6 months,” simply doesn’t apply.
Patients must be willing to take an active role in their own treatment.
Consequently, patients should select a physician that is willing and able to help them achieve their individual goals. If cannabis is new to you (or it’s been a really long time since you’ve had experience), finding a doctor that is knowledgeable in cannabis therapy as well as a clinic that has proper educational protocols is a must.
Physicians who merely provide a brief exam and send patients to the dispensaries to receive product education are setting their patients up for failure. The dispensaries in Florida, in my experience, have staff woefully unable to provide the level of education necessary. Even worse, I’ve seen some MMTCs “size up” new patients and upsell cannabis inexperienced customers to the hilt.
Even if you do have a lot of experience with cannabis, Florida is unique. If your doctor or clinic staff doesn’t provide adequate, non biased education, you are being underserved.
Will They Answer The Phone?
When trying to find a cannabis physician you’ll undoubtedly (at least you should) be making phone calls to offices. If the clinic you are calling doesn’t answer the phone or repeatedly sends you to voicemail, you should run.
If the staff isn’t answering calls for new patients, it is to be expected you’ll have extreme difficulty getting ahold of someone once you are established within the practice.
With Florida’s complex system there are many questions that pop up along the way for patients. Having someone within your doctors office actually answering the phone during regular business hours goes a long way in ensuring your care into the future.
What’s The Price?
Medical advertising in Florida has its requirements. One, in particular, requires that on any advertisement the doctors name and professional designation (MD, DO, etc) must appear. If you’re surfing medical marijuana practice websites in Florida and can’t find the name of a doctor, you’re likely looking at some sort of scam.
One of the other tricks of the trade in Florida is opaque (or hidden) pricing. If a clinic doesn’t advertise it’s pricing schedule they’re hiding something.
Make sure you ask what the cost is of exams, if (and when) follow up appointments are required (and how much they cost), and how much recertification appointments cost. What may seem affordable at first may become more expensive than most other doctors.
Remember, the law states patients must be seen by their Qualifying Physician for a face-to-face, in person examination once each 30 weeks. Physicians that require patients be seen monthly, every 45 days, or every 70 days are likely much more expensive than clinics who require visits each 6 months, like Medicann Clinic.
Are You Just A Number?
One of the most often repeated complaint from patients switching their care to us is the lack of attention their last physician gave them during visits.
Stories of absent minded (or just plain absent) doctors are repeated to our staff everyday. In one extreme case, a Qualifying Physician in Venice is notorious for answering his cell phone during patient encounters, sometimes subsequently walking out of the room to take the call.
With the inherent regulatory encumbrances placed on Physicians in Florida who recommend cannabis, doctors are at a time disadvantage with their patients. Forms have to be signed, charts have to be completed, and the patient needs added and/or certified and ordered for within the Medical Marijuana Use Registry.
Having a lot to do and a short time to do it is no excuse for inadequate care. If your doctor isn’t listening to your heart and lungs, isn’t reading your chart and intake forms and asking you questions, or if your physician is talking to you about anything other than your health, that doctor is derelict in his or her duty.
Much as any other practice of medicine, physicians are bound by oath to treat patients with respect, listen to their concerns, and knowledgeable help the individual achieve the treatment goals.
Do Your Research
Knowledge is power and if you begin your search for a cannabis doctor with some research you’ll be much better off in the long run.
Before even scheduling an appointment, it’s a good idea to take the time to learn the law, understand the legal requirements of a physician, and take the time to identify your own health goals.
Reputation is key so as you are Google searching or checking social media like Facebook, keep an eye out for reviews. More importantly, take the time to read them. Be sure to search more than just the clinic, also search the doctor as well. Doing an MQA license search on the physician can turn up any disciplinary or board actions initiated against the practitioner.
With so many options in care, patients in Florida looking to find a medical marijuana doctor must take the time to find a physician who will help them reach their individual goals.
Once you identify what your health care goals, look for a practice and physician who are responsive, are transparent with their pricing and procedure, and have a staff that takes a genuine interest in their patients.
If at any point you’re not getting the care you deserve, find another doctor.