The process of changing doctors can seem daunting. You may not see your doctor as often as you see other people in your life, but it’s a relationship that’s important to get right. Your health is at stake, after all.
You deserve a doctor who has your back 100 percent — who offers you compassionate, straightforward health advice and cares about the fact that you haven’t eaten broccoli in a week, even if you think it’s no big deal. But switching doctors can seem like a lot of work, especially if you already put time into finding the doctor you’re now thinking about leaving.
So, make the process simple for yourself. You’re only three steps away from getting exactly what you need out of your relationship with your doctor.
1. Determine Why You’re Leaving
Articulating your reasons for leaving your doctor does two very important things: First, it helps you decide whether changing doctors is actually the right move. If it is, then figuring out why you’re making the switch tells you what your current doctor isn’t doing right that the next doctor needs to.
Maybe it’s your relationship that’s the issue. Does your doctor seem rushed during your appointments? Do they wave off your concerns? Did you simply never warm up to each other? Given how important your relationship with your primary care physician is to your health and well-being, these are all valid reasons to make a change. Of course, you can consider giving them another chance — everyone has off days — but if the problem is persistent or has already negatively affected your health, start looking for a new doctor whose personality and bedside manner are a better fit.
Other times, the decision to work with a new primary care doctor simply follows health insurance network changes. This can be frustrating, but it means you have a starting point. If you really liked the doctor you’re forced to leave, make sure to look for those same qualities in your in-network options.
2. Know Where to Go
Once you’ve made the decision to move on, the most important step in the process is finding the right doctor for you.
Reference your current network’s physician lists as you decide on a new doctor. Generally, this is available through your carrier’s website and can point you directly to practices that accept your health insurance plan. Choosing an in-network doctor is key to keeping your out-of-pocket costs down.
From there, researching doctors online is a good way to understand any specialties they may have, see whether they’re taking new patients and check their reputation, including any potential malpractice records.
To approach the search from another angle, get opinions from family or friends on primary care doctors they use or are familiar with. Online reviews can help give you a sense of doctors’ personalities, but the people close to you will understand your needs and who might be the best fit for you.
3. Make the Switch
It’s important to go for a test drive with your potential doctor before officially making the switch. That way, you can see whether you get along with them and how comfortable you are talking to them about your health needs. If your first appointment with a new doctor goes well, then it’s time to actually make the switch.
Getting a new doctor is an opportunity to put your best foot forward during your appointments. Ensure your medical history is in order and in the hands of your new doctor so every visit is an efficient one. Your former doctor can forward on all of your medical records if requested, and you should plan to come to your appointments prepared with any relevant family history or health information that might not be included in those records, such as any new allergies.
Once your new doctor has your full medical records, it’s up to you how to handle your exit from the previous doctor. In most cases, you don’t have to reach out if you don’t want to — but don’t be afraid to voice your concerns about a particular issue you had at their practice before you go. Doctors want happy patients, and hearing your experience can only benefit their other relationships.
With these considerations in mind, it’s easy to create a game plan for changing doctors. As with anything involving your health, it’s a difficult decision. In the end, though, the bump you’ll see in your quality of life is worth the work you put into having a good relationship with your primary care doctor.