medicine, primary care

Breaking up is hard to do…

When is it time to break up with your doctor?  It can be a tough decision to make.  After all, if you don’t like your experience at a store, you shop somewhere else next time.  If you go for a haircut and hate it, you find someone else.

With your doctor, it’s a bit different.  This is someone who might know some of your deepest, darkest secrets.  There is a history to that relationship.  Logistically, it is also a bit of a pain in the butt.  All of your records are with your doctor.  You might need to have a chat with your insurance company.  Then you actually have to go through the process of finding a new doctor you like.  So, when is it worth it to take the plunge?

First things first- try to articulate to yourself why you want a new doctor.  Did you have one really bad appointment, but otherwise have had good experiences?  If so, you should probably talk to your doctor about your concerns before you jump ship.  Your doctor might have just been having a bad day.  Not that that’s an excuse, but it is an explanation.  Doctors are people, too.  We get sick.  We have worries about kids and family.  However, if you repeatedly have not been satisfied at your appointments, you might want to seek a new doctor.

Is it a personality issue?  Do you and your doctor just not “click?”  If that’s the case, you probably are better off finding someone else.  You need to be able to completely trust your primary care doctor, and if you can’t be comfortable with him/her, it’s not going to work.

Is it the office staff?  Is someone at the front desk always rude?  Do you always get put on hold for 20 minutes when you call?  For these issue, I strongly suggest that you talk to your doctor.  Here’s the truth- since we’re not patients in our own offices, we often have no idea of what’s going on up front.  Sad, but true.  However, we can easily remedy many of these issues if we know about them.  So, don’t switch for these reasons.  Talk to your doc first, and give it a bit more time.  If there is no improvement in services, then it’s time to make a move.

Now the harder stuff- care issues.  By this, I mean that you have concerns about the level of care that your doctor is giving you.  This is a very tough one, because unless you are in the health care field yourself, you might not be able to accurately assess this.  The internet is changing this, however, and more and more people are reading online and educating themselves about their health conditions.  This is a good thing.  However, just because your doctor is treating you one way, and you read about a different treatment online, doesn’t mean that your doctor is wrong.  The practice of medicine is an art, and highly individualized.  If you have concerns, you must talk to your doctor.  You might even want to get a second opinion from another doctor.  A reasonable doc should never be angry about you getting another opinion. If your issues about the level of care you are getting are legitimate, you should definitely find another doctor.

Lastly, whenever you think of switching doctors, I ask you to look at yourself, too.  Have you been to doctor after doctor after doctor, never finding one who has satisfied you?  The problem might not be your doctor.  Nothing strikes dread into the heart of a primary care physician like having a patient say, “I’ve been to ten other doctors and no one has listened to me/been able to help me.”  Are your expectations of your doctor unrealistic?  I have one patient who left my practice because she wanted a personal phone call from me with all of her lab results.  Now, I do send out letters for all results, but I can’t make calls to everyone.  I review about 50 lab results a day.  If I called everyone personally, that’s all I would be able to do.

So, it’s a complicated subject.  However, I hope I’ve gotten across the one recurring theme…talk to your doctor.  The worst that can happen is that you mutually decide to part ways.

2 thoughts on “Breaking up is hard to do…”

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