10 Signs It's Time to Find a New Doctor

by Karen Lee Richards

Are you less than satisfied with your doctor but uncertain as to whether you should look for another? Because the doctor-patient relationship is a very personal one, the decision as to whether or not to switch doctors can be a difficult one to make, especially if you have been seeing the same doctor for several years.

So how do you know when the time is right? Here are 10 signs that it may be time to find a new doctor:

1. Your doctor doesn't listen to you.

Does your doctor routinely interrupt you after one or two sentences? Do you find your doctor attending to other matters while you are trying to explain your symptoms? Does your doctor repeatedly ask you questions you've already answered?

2. Your doctor doesn't believe you're really sick.

Do you find your doctor frequently attributing your symptoms to age, stress or hormones? If you have a chronic illness like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, does your doctor dismiss it as either non-existent or a "wastebasket diagnosis"? Does your doctor imply that most of your problems are psychosomatic?

3. Your doctor dismisses all alternative treatments as quackery.

Are you hesitant to tell your doctor about supplements you've been taking for fear of the lecture you'll receive? Does your doctor make you feel foolish if you inquire about an alternative treatment like acupuncture or massage therapy?

4. Your doctor refuses to look at ANY information you find on the Internet.

Does your doctor reject anything found on the Internet regardless of the source? Is your doctor unaware of the fact that there is a great deal of quality, respected medical information available on the Internet (for example, most major medical journals, National Library of Medicine), or is anything found on the Internet dismissed without further investigation?

5. Your doctor is unwilling to consider your ideas.

If you ask to have a lab test run or request a new medication, does your doctor usually refuse without explaining why? When you express concern about something, such as a symptom or medication side-effect, does your doctor tell you not to worry about it without addressing your concerns? If you say you think you might have a particular disease or condition, does your doctor say, "No, you don't have that" without telling you why that's not a possibility?

6. Your doctor refuses to refer you to a specialist.

If you ask for a referral to a specialist, does your doctor refuse without explaining why? Is your doctor offended if you ask for a second opinion?

7. Your doctor views each appointment as an isolated event.

Does your doctor fail to review your chart at each appointment to refresh his memory, look for symptom patterns, and observe treatment history? Do you get the feeling your doctor has no idea who you are? Does your doctor treat you like a new patient, asking you the same questions you were asked at your last four appointments?

8. Your doctor is rude, arrogant, or inconsiderate.

Is your doctor's attitude one of "Do what I tell you to and don't ask questions"? Does your doctor make you feel as if you are wasting his valuable time? Does your doctor talk to you in a condescending or patronizing manner? When you ask a question, does your doctor ever make you feel foolish or stupid? Does your doctor routinely keep you in the waiting room for several hours? Do you usually have to leave multiple messages before getting a response?

9. Your doctor's staff is frequently rude or unreliable.

Are staff members rude to you in person or on the phone? Have there been times that your messages were not given to the doctor? Do they fail to call in prescription refills in a timely manner?

10. Your doctor refuses to cooperate with other health care professionals as part of your health care team.

Is your doctor unwilling to take the time to connect and compare notes with other members of your health care team (for example, specialists or physical therapists)?

To Switch or Not to Switch

Should you look for a new doctor if even one of these signs is true of your doctor? Not necessarily. It depends on what characteristics are most important to you. For example, if you're not interested in alternative treatments, you may not care whether your doctor considers them to be quackery. On the other hand, if you doctor doesn't believe you're really sick, it's definitely time to find a new doctor.

There is no such thing as a perfect doctor. Personalities vary and a doctor that you love, may be intolerable to another patient. Ultimately, the decision is yours. Just remember that you deserve the best health care you can get. Your doctor provides a service--health care. You, as a consumer, are purchasing that service. If you're not receiving satisfactory service, you need to take your business elsewhere.

© Karen Lee Richards

Last Updated: 4/17/09