Some lucky people have established a lifetime relationship with their doctors. They have gotten to know their doctors well, there is mutual respect and trust, and they would never consider changing physicians. Other people are not so lucky. Sometimes, the decision to change doctors is dictated by outside influences rather than personal choice.
There are myriad reasons you might consider changing doctors:
- You and your family are moving to a new location that is too far away from your current doctor.
- Your insurance company no longer contracts with your current doctor. This is actually as much a reason to change insurance companies as it is to change doctors. If you are satisfied with your doctor's care, you may choose to review your insurance for changes instead.
- Your life choices force you to make a change. Getting married and choosing your new spouse's health insurance over your own, or divorcing your spouse may require you to find a new doctor.
- Your doctor's practice is closing, or your doctor is moving his/her practice. Doctors retire, change careers, lose their licenses, are denied malpractice insurance, and even pass away, forcing patients to find an alternative.
- It is not unheard of that doctors will "fire" a patient. Sometimes the relationship is so difficult that neither the doctor nor patient is satisfied with it. The doctor may be the first one to identify a problem in the relationship, and you may be left without a doctor.
- You have a medical problem that requires a second opinion. In this case, you won't necessarily change doctors; you just need another doctor to look at your medical situation more closely.
- You come to the realization that "nice" and "good bedside manner" don't necessarily equal competent. You may be reluctant to change, but feel you could get better care elsewhere.
- You get an uneasy feeling from the doctor. It may be tough to pinpoint, but if a doctor makes you feel at all uncomfortable, trust that feeling and make a change. From substance abuse problems, to an inability to control anger, to bad habits, to problems with hygiene - you may not even be able to pinpoint the problem, but whatever it is, it will never seem right to you.
- You have a feeling that another doctor would communicate better, respect you more, or partner with you more effectively. This is as good a reason as any to seek a new doctor. Mutual trust and respect are very important between a doctor and patient. From not managing your expectations well, to using med-speak, to failing to provide test results or other feedback, patients can get frustrated with communication problems. That's plenty of reason to change doctors.
On the other hand, if you are considering making a change, don't take the decision lightly. You and your doctor have both invested in the relationship, and such a change will not be easy for either of you. The time, paperwork and details will need to be sorted out.
Once you've decided that changing doctors is the right thing to do, you'll want to follow recommendations for making sure the change works smoothly. It's wise to establish the new relationship by making the transition before an emergency or major health difficulty.