It used to be that your family doctor knew everything about you, perhaps even more than you knew about yourself. You felt you had a relationship with him or her, and usually trusted him/her to take you through various stages of life – sometimes from birth to death. Seeing a specialist was unusual. And changing doctors was even more unusual.

The healthcare environment has changed a lot since then, for both doctors and patients. Undoubtedly some of those changes have been for the better, though many of us feel a lot of those changes have been for the worse.

One of the changes is how much easier it is to change doctors if you need to. And sometimes that’s one of the better changes. The demands on doctors are much greater now, but ever-advancing science means the stakes for you and your health are much greater also. You will certainly get the most out of your relationship with your doctor if you take personal responsibility for your health, ask questions, and see yourself as a partner rather than only as a patient.

When the relationship with your doctor is negative, it may be time to make a change.

Fire Your Doctor if:

  1. You don’t like your doctor. You’re not looking for a best friend, but you should have a sense that your doctor is someone you can get along with, who you feel comfortable telling your difficult secrets to, and who seems to understand you most of the time.
  2. Your doctor doesn’t like you. Doctors are people too, and sometimes you can’t escape the feeling that your doctor would rather see just about anyone else but you. Sometimes your personality and theirs just don’t match. That happens, and it’s OK.
  3. You have difficulty trusting your doctor. You need to be able to trust that your doctor has your best interests at heart, and is telling you the truth. Sometimes doctors can be difficult to understand, but if he/she has lost your trust, it’s time to go.
  4. You don’t get your questions answered. Doctors have minimal training in communication, but it’s a critically important part of your relationship with them. You absolutely must be able to ask any questions you have and feel reasonably satisfied that your doctor is giving you the best information they have at their disposal.
  5. You can’t get an appointment. In today’s healthcare world some doctors are being forced to take on many more patients than they can reasonably care for. It may be difficult to find a doctor who’s easy to see, but reasonable access is worth considering when deciding whether they deserve to be fired.
  6. Money is a closed subject. Your doctor may not personally know the cost of treatments they suggest, but they should have someone immediately available who can find this out for you. If they are not willing to discuss the financial aspects of your care, find a doctor who will.
  7. Your doctor won’t agree to a second opinion. You do NOT need your doctor’s permission to seek a second opinion if you are facing a challenging medical issue. Any reasonable doctor will understand your desire for another opinion, and welcome your choice to seek one. The only exception should be a life-threatening emergency.
  8. Your doctor won’t discuss other options. Your own investigation may uncover alternative treatments, supplements, or research about your condition that your doctor has not talked about. You should feel free to discuss these options with him/her; he may or may not have an opinion or further information on the issue, but he should be willing to talk about it.
  9. Your doctor won’t accept your decision. It’s YOUR body, your life, your pocket book, your health. If you refuse to go along with a treatment your doctor recommends they have the right to fire you as their patient! But in most cases you should be able to come to a mutual understanding about your treatment.
  10. You just want to. Truthfully, you don’t really need a reason to change doctors. “Doctor-hopping” will not likely give you the best results as far as your health and your healthcare is concerned. But sometimes you can’t put your reason into words, and that’s OK.

Some of the most satisfying moments of my career as a doctor have been the long-term relationships I have been able to enjoy with some patients. That’s why I and most other doctors became professionals in the first place.

When you find a doctor you can connect with, be willing to invest in the relationship. It will benefit both them and you.

Your Turn: Have you needed to fire your doctor? Why did you do so? Leave a comment below.

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