The relationship that you have with your doctor is an intensely personal one; after all, you discuss the intimate details of your health with them. You want your doctor to be approachable, the kind of doctor you could go to with just about anything and feel comfortable having an in depth conversation and ask for help when necessary.
Often people walk into the consultation room and immediately feel intimidated by the doctor sitting behind the desk, they find that they cannot express themselves fully and end up not getting the help or medical treatment that they actually need. There are patients that stick with the same doctor for years, even though they don’t have anything like the level of relationship that they should, but they will not seek out a new doctor for fear or causing offense, or causing problems for the medical practice on the whole.
Do You Need a New Doctor?
In reality, the doctor and patient relationship is no different to any other business transaction that you enter into. Your doctor is providing a service and you as the service user or client are entitled to a satisfactory level of service. Should the service not meet your expectations or you are consistently disappointed or let down, then you are well within your rights to change your doctor so that your health needs and user expectations are met.
If you have a chronic illness or condition and need regular medical care, you need a relationship with your doctor that offers support when it's needed. A doctor that will review your care plan and make modifications to your medication where necessary to ensure that you have the best chance of remaining health for longer, or recovering from illness faster. Without this kind of relationship you will find it difficult to get well and feel better.
Signs It’s Time to Change Your Doctor
Perhaps you have always been used to having a distant relationship with your family doctor that you have become used to it, but if more than two of the following signs ring true with you then it is definitely time for a change.
• Your messages aren’t replied to. How many telephone messages do you have to leave for your doctor before you get a response? Have you ever had to go without your medication because of a breakdown in communication?
• Staff at the practice are rude or uncooperative. Are you left waiting several days for a prescription to be ready to collect? Are the messages that you leave at reception making it to the desk of your doctor? Are the staff at your doctors practice helpful and courteous on the phone and in person? Has any of your medical information, such as letters from the hospital or out of hour’s service ever been lost? Or have you ever attended your appointment to be told that they have no record of an appointment being made?
• You are discouraged from doing your own internet research. Have you ever brought up some information that you found on the internet that relates to your condition and had it dismissed as being worthless?
• Your doctor is unwilling to listen to your opinion. Are you constantly having your health complaints written off to stress, or to age, or to the fact that you are overweight? Have you been refused a specific test because your doctor refuses to consider the possibility of your self diagnosis being correct? Does your doctor agree to a change in medication if you request one?
• Your doctor doesn’t listen. Has your doctor taken a telephone call half way through your consultation or left the room as you were trying to explain how you were feeling? Has your doctor continued performing other tasks once you have entered the room, such as typing or reading mail? Do they repeatedly ask you the same questions again and again, showing that they are not paying attention to you?
• Missing the bigger picture. Do you find that you have to recap all of your previous visits every time that you visit? Does your doctor take the time to review your medical history for a minute or two when you arrive? Do you feel that your doctor has an understanding of who you are and your medical history?
• Is your doctor rude or arrogant when you meet? Does your doctor always believe that they are in the right no matter what? Does your doctor ever apologise for keeping you waiting? Would they ever admit that they did not know the answer to a question you asked? Do they interrupt you when you are explaining why you have come to see them? Do you ever feel as though you are being spoken to or treat like a child by your doctor?
• Do you feel like you and your doctor are working together? A doctor who is working with you to make you well will do whatever it takes to alleviate your symptoms and reduce your pain and try different methods and medications to see what gives the best results, whilst treating you with the respect that you deserve and listening to all of the feedback and information that you have to give regarding your treatment plan.
How to Change Your Doctor
• You need to ensure that you have found a new medical practice willing to take you on before you leave the old one.
• Make a final appointment with your old doctor and take a friend with you when you go, ask for a basic report that you can jot down and use to update your new doctor until he or she receives your complete medical history from your previous practice.
• You are not legally required to tell your doctor that you are leaving, but it is good to let them know if you are leaving them because you have no choice, for example if you are moving house or leaving the area.
• If you are leaving because of the way you have been treated or the poor service that you have received, if you can’t face giving your reasons face to face, try writing a letter to your doctor explaining your reasons. It may help them see how their behaviour has impacted on the practice, and the letter writing will be a cathartic process helping you feel better about the whole process.