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  • Cameron Oglesby

When and why is it okay to fire your doctor?

Staying with a doctor you don’t feel good about can be bad for your health. You need to be able to trust your doctor, to see your doctor with no hesitation, to tell your doctor everything about your health.

If you’re not, it may be time to overcome the inertia and make a change. Here are 10 ways to analyze your relationship and determine whether you should:

1. Your doctor’s communicating style and yours don’t mesh. Some patients want doctors to be blunt and direct. Others look for more empathy. Neither approach is wrong per se, but mismatches don’t build great health partnerships.

2. Your doctor’s time is too stretched to serve you. Do you always seem to spend more time in the waiting room than with your doctor? Doctors are very busy, and emergencies can disrupt appointment schedules. But once you’re in the examining room, does the doctor take the time to listen to you fully, answer your questions, and address your concerns? Or do you always feel you’re being speed-doctored?

3. Your doctor isn’t completely open with you. Does the doctor tell you what conditions you’ve been diagnosed with? Explain the reasons for recommending specific treatments and tests? Share the results with you? Explain decisions in medical jargon instead of everyday English? You can’t do your part in maintaining your health if you’re confused or uninformed.

4. Your doctor doesn’t listen to you. Does the doctor put down the chart or turn away from the computer screen and actively listen? Or does the doctor seem to dislike hearing questions? Interrupt or cut you off when you’re voicing a concern? Fail to give your questions and concerns the credence they deserve? When you describe symptoms, does your doctor fail to address them? When you call the doctor about a new concern, do the doctor and the office staff fail to call you back?

5. Your doctor’s approach isn’t healing you. Treatment that doesn’t work isn’t necessarily a firing offense, but it does call for a second opinion. Is your doctor open to second opinions from a different practice, or resist them? Virtually all health plans cover second opinions, but according to the Patient Advocate Foundation, more than a third of all US adults never get one.

6. Your doctor doesn’t educate you. Ten percent of newly diagnosed patients leave their doctors’ offices without understanding their diagnosis, according to Patient Advocate Foundation research. Do you leave appointments with less information than you need about your conditions, medications, and treatment options?

7. Your doctor is too aggressive. Does the doctor immediately jump to invasive or extreme options like surgery without trying less invasive and disruptive approaches first?

8. Your doctor doesn’t coordinate with your other doctors. The older you get, the more medical specialists you’re likely to need in addition to your Primary Care Physician. Since some conditions affect others, or overlap into more than one medical specialty area, coordination is important.

9. Your doctor’s too free with the prescription pad. Does your doctor almost automatically prescribe antibiotics or pain medicines, even though they may not be needed? Or name-brand prescription drugs when much less costly generics will do the job?

10, Your doctor doesn’t take a holistic approach. You’re much more than a collection of conditions and symptoms. So does your doctor factor in how a new drug or protocol will fit your lifestyle? Discuss subjects like your eating habits, your exercise, and whether you have enough social interaction? Does the doctor address medical issues from not just a clinical standpoint, but also from a “mind, body, spirit” perspective?

(At Senior Insights, we believe this last point is particularly important. Ever since we opened our doors, we’ve been working holistically, on the basis of all of a client’s individual physical, emotional, cognitive, psychosocial, and environmental needs – and how each interrelates with the others. We start with a thorough three-part needs assessment to determine what specific services a client needs. In these assessments, we talk not only with clients, but also their families and caregivers. Then we provide caring, experienced, reliable people to provide the exact kind of care that fits those individual needs and desires we learned about.)

If, after thoroughly analyzing your answers to the questions above, there are two things you need to do before making a switch. The first is to get a copy of your medical records, so your new doctor won’t be starting completely from scratch. The second is to have selected a new doctor, which I’ll discuss in the next blog post.


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