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Is it time to switch to a new doctor? Take our quiz to find out
Here are the signs that you might want to look for a new medical provider.
Great care starts with a strong relationship with your primary care provider (PCP). Your doctor is usually the person you turn to first when you’re not feeling well or have a health issue.1 You rely on them to give you advice, provide treatment, and help you stay healthy.
So, if you just don’t connect, it may be time to make a switch. Take this quiz to find out.
1. Does your doctor ignore your concerns?
Health care is a partnership between you and your doctor. If it’s not, you may want to think about finding a new medical care provider.2
Maybe you and your doctor don’t really click. Perhaps you don’t communicate as well as you’d like. Or maybe you’re uneasy with a treatment plan they suggest.
“It’s really important that you have a two-way relationship of trust with your doctor,” says Jennifer Donahue, MD. She’s the chief medical officer of ProHealth Physicians, part of Optum, in Connecticut. “If that’s not happening, that would be a reason to think about going elsewhere.”
2. Does your doctor use words you don’t understand?
You could have the world’s best doctor. But if you don’t understand what they’re talking about, that could be confusing for you. It’s important that all the information your doctor gives you makes sense.
“Some clinicians are really good at talking to people about medical things,” says Dr. Donahue. “But for others, it just doesn’t come as naturally.”
Her advice: Speak up. If your doctor is using medical words or terms you don’t understand, ask them to explain them more clearly. If you still don’t understand them, or they’re unwilling to answer your questions, you may not be getting the right support.
3. Is it hard to get an appointment?
Wait times are getting longer everywhere. After all, by 2034, the United States may have a shortage of as many as 124,000 physicians.3 There are lots of reasons: Our population is getting older—and many health problems are on the rise.
The number of doctors is shrinking, too. As doctors are aging, many of them are retiring. And there aren’t enough new ones entering the profession to take their place.3
But seeing a primary care doctor when you need one is still important. That makes prompt appointments a big part of the doctor-patient relationship. One option to consider: Check to see if there’s a nurse practitioner or physician assistant on your doctor’s care team. Advanced care providers like these can handle many health needs.4,5 And it’s often easier to get an appointment.
Another option when your doctor is booked? Someone from your doctor’s office can talk with you to see how urgently you need care.
“For instance, you may speak with a nurse who can understand what’s happening and know if you really need to be seen right away,” says Dr. Donahue. (This is known as triage.) If so, they should be able to fit you in that day. Or the nurse may reassure you that it’s okay to wait a couple of days.
If your doctor’s office doesn’t offer options like these, it may be time to find a place that is more available to you as a patient.
4. Is it hard to speak honestly with your doctor?
It’s important to be open with your doctor about all your health concerns. And your doctor should make it easy to start difficult conversations.
“Doctors should be asking open-ended questions and allowing you time to talk about what’s important,” says Dr. Donahue. And for the most part, they try their best.
It’s also important that your doctor asks about things you might not necessarily bring up. For example, they might discuss difficult topics such as substance abuse, depression and risky sexual practices, says Dr. Donahue.
But if your doctor makes you feel embarrassed, or you feel like they’re judging you, you may not want to share personal information again. If you are not comfortable opening up to your doctor, it’s important to find a provider you can talk with.
5. Is your doctor unwilling to work with your other medical providers?
To give you the best care, your doctor needs to look at the big picture. That means keeping in touch with other providers you may be seeing.
“Your primary care doctor should always be in connection with the other people involved in your care,” says Dr. Donahue. That may include specialists, home health care agencies and family members that the patient has included in their care.
The more information your doctor has, the better they can care for you. Doctors who aren’t interested in getting that information may not be a good fit.
Tips for making a switch
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, it may be time to find a new doctor. Here are the best ways to get started:
Ask your family and friends about their doctors. Referrals from people you trust can be helpful.1 Talk to them about the questions on this quiz.
Check with your health insurance plan. With most plans, you can search online to find a nearby doctor in your network. “Some insurers will have ratings for how clinicians perform in terms of quality and value. That’s something that you can also look at,” says Dr. Donahue.
Find more info about potential providers. Narrowed down your list of potential providers? Check out their websites, or call their office and ask these questions, recommends the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:2
- Is the doctor taking new patients?
- Is the doctor part of a group practice? If so, who are the other doctors that might help care for me?
- Who will see me if my doctor isn’t there?
- Which hospital does the doctor use?
- Does the doctor have experience treating my medical conditions?
- Are evening or weekend appointments available? What about telemedicine appointments?
- How long will it take to get an appointment? How long do appointments last?
- Can I get lab work and x-rays done in the office?
- Is there a doctor or nurse who speaks my preferred language?
Look at online reviews as well but be careful with those. “Most people don’t review their doctor, so people who do are sometimes in an unusual situation,” says Dr. Donahue.
Finally, remember that switching doctors can be good for your health. Don’t feel bad or guilty about it. Instead, feel proud that you’re making a choice that’s right for you.
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- National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. Choosing a primary care provider. Last reviewed July 19, 2021. Accessed September 11, 2023.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Choosing a Doctor: Quick Tips. Last updated September 11, 2023. Accessed September 11, 2023.
- Association of American Medical Colleges. The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections From 2019 to 2034. Published June 2021. Accessed September 11, 2023.
- American Association of Nurse Practitioners. What’s a Nurse Practitioner (NP)? Accessed September 22, 2023.
- American Academy of Physician Assistants. What is a PA? Accessed September 22, 2023.
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