Being Well

When It’s Time to Change Doctors: How to Make the Right Move

It's OK to change doctors if you're not happy with the treatment. Evaluate your medical situation, and do some research to make sure you have the care you want and need.

It’s awkward to leave a doctor you’ve been seeing for a while. In this situation, you may feel you’re breaking up with your doctor or are concerned you’ll hurt your physician’s feelings. But people change doctors, just like jobs, all the time. If your physician or the treatment approach isn’t working for you, it’s time to find someone who fits what you need. It means securing a doctor who will work better with you and your medical issues.

What to Consider When Making the Switch

Before you start visiting new physicians, think about what you want from that physician and what you didn’t like about your old doctor. Some possible reasons include:

  • You want a doctor with a different bedside manner.
  • You want a doctor who listens to you and answers your questions in a more thoughtful way.
  • You want a doctor with more expertise in your specific medical issue.
  • You want a physician who’s part of a clinical drug trial or who’s able to prescribe a different kind of treatment than your current physician.
  • You want a physician in a different location, for your convenience.
  • You want a doctor with more flexible scheduling options.

These are all legitimate reasons to change doctors, and it’s important you remember your top concerns as you look for a new provider.

What to Tell Your Current Doctor

If you see your current physician regularly, it’s helpful to let the office staff know you’re leaving and the reasons why. That way, if they get a records request or another care provider calls them for information, they’ll understand you’re seeking care elsewhere. If you’re leaving because you’re unhappy with the care or office procedures, it’s best to nicely let your doctor know that, too. Most doctors care about their patients’ satisfaction, and if there are areas where she could improve, she wants to know. If you’re uncomfortable saying something in person, you can send a letter or call the office manager to share your concerns or just put a short note on the records request form.

What to Ask Your New Doctor

Before leaving your current physician, have someone else lined up, especially if you need continuous care. You don’t want to have treatment gaps, as it can take time to work a new patient into a doctor’s schedule. Before even talking with the potential doctor, find out from the billing staff if they take your insurance. When visiting a doctor for a second opinion or to get to know her approach, it’s helpful to bring a list of questions to ask. Questions might include:

  • How many other cases have you treated like mine?
  • What do you think of my current treatment regimen?
  • What treatment approach would you recommend for my situation?
  • What information do you need from me to better understand my condition?
  • Do you have availability in your schedule to accommodate my visits?
  • Where do you have hospital privileges?

The decision to change doctors is a big one. You’ll likely be leaving someone who knows you and your health history well, changing to a new doctor, nursing staff and different office procedures. But it’s important to remember that it’s your body and you have free choice in what doctor to use.

Finding the right doctor for you and your condition is vital for your health.

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Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Deborah Abrams Kaplan