When Is It Time To Change Doctors?

photo smiling doctor shaking hands with patient - time to change doctorsMany, if not all of us, have at some point been at least a little bit annoyed or frustrated with a doctor. Perhaps your doctor ignored your complaints or rushed you through an appointment. Maybe the doctor isn’t capable of handling your care. Or maybe the staff was rude or you never heard back about test results. Doctors and their support staff all are human and there isn’t a person around who is always in a great mood and never makes mistakes. Nonetheless, you want to have a competent doctor you trust, but also one with whom you can have a pleasant working partnership. So, when is it time to change doctors and move on to another provider?

I realize there are situations where you must use a particular doctor, because of your insurance, your location, and/or your condition. If this is the case, it’s very important that you learn how to make the most out of your relationship with your doctor. Whatever your situation, these blog posts can help you get the best possible care:

Do any of these conditions pertain to your doctor?

Issues described in this post (and in subsequent posts Part 2 and Part 3) could pose risks to your health. If one or more of these issues describe the relationship you have with a doctor, it’s probably time to look for a new doctor. Of course, not all of these issues carry the same level of importance – some can significantly impact your health while others may negatively impact your overall experience.

You just can’t get along.

A positive relationship with your doctor is a key part of receiving good care. If a doctor thinks you are difficult or disruptive, it can negatively impact your care, and ultimately, your health. According to a Wall Street Journal article, as many as 15% of patients are seen as difficult by their doctors. Conversely, research shows that the majority of doctors have at some point been treated rudely by patients.

Keep in mind that it is not only a mutual distaste for each other or outright rudeness that can impact the doctor-patient relationship. It might be a difference of style and personality. Some patients prefer doctors who are direct and straightforward, while others prefer a doctor with a softer approach. Maybe your doctor’s sense of humor, or lack thereof, is off-putting. Or you could be bothered by any of a number of personality differences.

A strained doctor-patient relationship can not only cause unpleasant appointments for all involved, it can lead to misdiagnoses and other issues. Whatever the cause, if you find that you and your doctor cannot get along, it’s a good idea to look for a new doctor. Having a quality relationship is too important to dismiss.

Your doctor makes you feel uncomfortable.

If your doctor ever makes you feel uncomfortable, physically, emotionally or sexually, it’s time to find a new doctor. Period.

Your doctor is always rushing you.

Researchsand timer: Zaggo - when is it time to change doctors shows that effective doctor-patient communication is linked to more appropriate medical decisions, better health outcomes, and higher patient satisfaction. When doctors rush through appointments, communication and care can suffer. Unfortunately, insurance reimbursement models encourage doctors to schedule brief appointments for every patient, often only allotting 15 minutes per patient. Only 14% of doctors report they generally have the time they need to provide patients with the highest standards of care. In a survey of the Zaggo community, 84% of respondents stated they have felt rushed during a medical appointment. Rushed appointments have sadly become the norm.

Furthermore, it’s likely these time pressures that are causing doctors to frequently interrupt patients. Studies show that doctors interrupt patients just 12 seconds into the patients’ opening statements describing their symptoms and issues. Clearly, all the rushing and interrupting makes it hard to have the effective conversations that are so important for a proper diagnosis.

Your health may literally depend on your doctor taking the time to speak with you and perform a sufficient physical exam. If you feel that your doctor frequently rushes through your appointments, it’s time to find a new doctor.

My personal experience:

When my son Jake was 6 months old, he was gasping for breath – on a weekend, of course. We called a doctor friend who suggested we call an ambulance. The ER doctors couldn’t find any issues. When Jake’s breathing calmed, we went home with orders to follow up with our pediatrician. At our Monday morning “sick visit”, our doctor came into the exam room and asked why we were there. I said “it’s a long story”. Before I was able to say another word, the doctor interrupted me and said “make it fast”. I was furious – my infant son had struggled to breathe and now the doctor was asking me to hurry! I knew we didn’t want or deserve this kind of doctor. We left and never returned.

Your doctor doesn’t listen to you.

Doctors don’t listen to patients for a variety of reasons. It might be because he/she is rushing, as discussed above. But, it could also indicate that your doctor doesn’t value your opinion or input. Your doctor must hear your complete story in order to identify possible diagnoses, order appropriate testing and consider a path for treatment.

If you feel your doctor doesn’t listen to you, or doesn’t respect you, it’s time to find a new doctor.

Your doctor discourages second opinions.

A second or third opinion can confirm a previous diagnosis or reveal alternative diagnostic options. Since medicine is part art and part science, it’s helpful to have more than one mind evaluating your case. Misdiagnosis, which includes a delayed or missed diagnosis or an inaccurate diagnosis, occurs between 10-20% of the time. This means you could start treatment for a disease you don’t have, or conversely, not get a much needed treatment. Getting other opinions can help you find the best care possible.

If you are not dealing with an emergency condition that requires immediate treatment, a doctor should never discourage you from getting a second opinion. If your doctor doesn’t want you to get another opinion, it’s time to find a new doctor!

Read my blog post for stories of doctors missing serious, life-threatening conditions – including stories of Serena Williams, my mother and my sister.

Your doctor’s skills are not adequate for your needs.

female working on laptop computer at desk: Zaggo - when is it time to change doctors?Your doctor should have the knowledge and experience to treat your medical condition(s). It is critical for all doctors –  all ages and experience levels – to continue their medical education throughout their entire career. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor how they maintain their skills in the ever-changing landscape of medicine.

You want a doctor trained and certified in the specialty for which he/she is treating you. Ask your doctor how much experience he/she has with your specific condition. If possible, choose a doctor who is familiar with your condition. For very rare conditions, this may mean a doctor who has treated just a few patients. For more common conditions, it’s best to use a doctor who has treated hundreds of similar patients.

If your doctor does not keep up with the latest medical information and/or is inexperienced in your condition, it’s likely time to find a replacement.


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