If you’re like half of patients right now, you’re considering switching doctors this year. Many are driven by a need for a clinician who is a good listener, has the proper clinical experience, or exhibits empathy, but are unsure of if they’re making the right call.
So how do you know when to switch doctors? Below, we’ll share 10 signs it might be time to find a new provider. Plus, we’ll go over how to find the best doctor for you and make the switch with minimal to no interruption in care.
10 signs it might be time to switch doctors
1. Your doctor lacks the expertise to treat your specific condition.
For those with chronic or complicated conditions, it is crucial that their doctor has the right expertise. If you feel your doctor is not able to treat your condition, it’s time to find a specialist who can. To make the most informed decision, use MediFind to search for doctors by condition (such as endometriosis, celiac disease, or lupus) and see their level of expertise in each condition (experienced, advanced, distinguished, or elite).
Even if you’ve gotten a diagnosis, it’s always a good idea to seek a second opinion—especially if you have a complex condition. The Mayo Clinic reports that nearly 90% of patients who do so leave that appointment with a different or refined diagnosis.
2. Your doctor dismisses your concerns.
Sure, doctors are the experts when it comes to medical knowledge, but you are the expert on your body and your experiences. If a doctor doesn’t take your symptoms seriously or refuses to look into them, find a physician who will.
Your experience could even be medical gaslighting. What is medical gaslighting? It’s when a provider dismisses your concerns or writes them off as purely psychological. And it’s more likely to happen to women and people of color.
- Doctors often downplay Black patients’ pain. Studies show that Black patients are less likely to be prescribed pain medication, and if they are, they get it in lower doses.
- Women are less likely than men to receive medication for their abdominal pain in the ER.
- 21% of women say a health care provider ignored or dismissed their symptoms, compared to 14% of men.
Consider this New York Times story about Jenneh Rishe, a runner with two congenital heart conditions. When she began to struggle on her daily jogs and experience chest pains, she saw a cardiologist who she says dismissed her symptoms, stating, “People who have these heart conditions aren’t this sick.”
So she sought a second opinion. This doctor ran tests and found that Rishe’s arteries lacked sufficient oxygen, prompting her to receive open-heart surgery two months later to correct the issue.
As Rishe told The New York Times: “I constantly still think about how any run I went on quite literally could’ve been my last.”
3. You want more convenience.
Maybe you crave a shorter drive to your appointments or the ease of online scheduling. Whatever it is, convenience is often a good reason to change doctors. A 2022 Tegria survey of more than 2,000 American adults found that 69% would switch doctors for more appealing services, including:
- Same-day appointments
- Convenient locations
4. Your doctor doesn’t communicate or collaborate well.
Coordinating healthcare is a team effort. If your doctor doesn’t want to share information with you or another provider you’re working with, it might be time to see someone else.
Other signs of a doctor who’s a poor communicator or collaborator:
- They use jargon or advanced medical terms that you don’t understand.
- They fail to listen to what you’re saying.
- They don’t keep you informed about your care.
- They refuse to make a referral when you ask for one.
- They won’t coordinate care with other providers you’re working with for treatment.
- They seem annoyed when you ask questions about your treatment.
5. Your doctor frequently makes mistakes.
We all make mistakes, but when it comes to health, one error can be devastating. Research published in BMJ Quality & Safety estimates that at least one in 20 U.S. adults seeking outpatient care are misdiagnosed each year.
Administrative errors are common, too. For example, a doctor’s office might misplace patient files, order the incorrect test, or fail to follow up on test results. One study by Susan Dovey and colleagues at the American Academy of Family Physicians found that more than 80% of mistakes in a family practice setting are administrative errors.
But how many errors are too many before you decide to switch doctors entirely? That’s up to you. Even just one mistake, no matter how seemingly minor, might be enough for you to call it quits with your current physician.
6. Your doctor is regularly late.
Doctors are pressed for time, often only getting 15 minutes to see a patient. On top of that, patients are often late, too, creating a domino effect of tardiness. That’s why it’s not unusual for doctors to be running behind schedule. Having said that, though, if your doctor is habitually late, you have every right to find one that’s more punctual.
7. The office staff is rude.
You deserve to be treated with compassion, and that’s especially true when you’re not feeling well. Office staff are the first touchpoint at any medical practice, so if they’re unkind to you, it might be time to go elsewhere. More than half of Americans say that kindness from the provider and the office staff is important. And 65% would switch doctors over rude clinic staff.
8. Your doctor is no longer in-network.
Even if you love your current doctor, if your insurance changes and your doctor is no longer in-network, you might need to switch to an in-network provider for financial reasons.
If you have a PPO/EPO (as opposed to an HMO) plan, you can get coverage for out-of-network providers, but you will pay more out of pocket than if you see someone who’s in network. That’s because in-network providers have contracts with your insurance company, which help those providers give you care at a discounted price.
9. Your doctor is unethical or unprofessional.
Like any professional, doctors are expected to abide by a code of conduct. While a breach of this code isn’t necessarily against the law, it does indicate that they’re being unethical or unprofessional, which warrants considering switching doctors.
Examples of unethical or unprofessional conduct might include:
- Not respecting your or other patients’ privacy (which HIPAA mandates, by the way)
- Not observing proper hygiene or medical precautions
- Lying to cover mistakes
- Shouting at patients or staff
- Trying to go forward with a test or procedure without your consent
Besides switching doctors, what else can you do if you experience physician misconduct? Report it to the state medical board. This is the entity that licenses and disciplines physicians.
10. You feel like you’re not getting the care you need.
It all boils down to this. Even if you can’t quite put your finger on it, if you feel you’re not getting the care you need, you deserve to find a doctor who can make you feel seen, supported, and respected as a patient, and most of all, can get you on the path to feeling better.
If something seems off, make an appointment with a different provider. That’s exactly what Jessica Baladad had to do. She says that about two weeks after a practitioner documented her breasts as “normal” in a clinical exam, she found a lump in her breast while doing a self-exam in the shower. Months later, Baladad was diagnosed with Stage 2B invasive ductal carcinoma. Sixteen rounds of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and 24 rounds of radiation rendered her cancer free—but she now has this message for all patients:
“Trust your gut,” she says. “Listen to yourself.” It was that instinct to listen to herself that prevented her from skipping her monthly self-exam, which ultimately led to her finding the lump and seeking a new provider. Baladad now advocates for patients and promotes breast self-exams at Feel For Your Life.
How to tell your doctor you are leaving their practice
You are under no obligation to inform your doctor that you’re leaving. But you may decide to do so for a couple of reasons:
You have critical feedback that might help them improve their patient care. If you’re comfortable and able, consider voicing your concerns to your provider. They might be receptive to the feedback and work on adapting to better fit your needs. If so, you might not have to change doctors at all! If not, you’ll at least know that you advocated for yourself (go you!) and perhaps gave your doctor something to think about.
To do this, you can call and ask to schedule an appointment to discuss your feedback with your doctor, send a message through the online portal (if their office has an Electronic Health Record, such as MyChart), email their office, or leave a message with the front desk staff.
However you choose to do it, try to keep your message focused on the facts of what the doctor did and how it made you feel, rather than make accusations or assumptions about why they did it. Also, share what you’d like them to do going forward to provide better care for their future patients.
You want to discuss your health condition and treatment plan before you leave. This is particularly important if you’re facing a complicated health challenge. You might need to discuss the details of how to transfer care to your new provider, including any prescriptions and upcoming tests and procedures.
Keep in mind that you will need your medical records from that practice transferred to the new practice, which we’ll go over below. Even when you make this medical records request, however, you don’t need to explicitly state why you’re making the request.
How to find a new doctor
Finding the right doctor for you can be tricky if you don’t know where to look. According to a 2022 survey by Everyday Health and Castle Connolly, 42% of people rely most on recommendations from current providers; 29% prefer asking friends, family, and coworkers; and about one in five use websites with physician ratings and reviews. But the problem with doctor reviews is they’re submitted by people who aren’t medical experts (and could be disgruntled patients), so the information these reviews contain is often unreliable.
The best way to find a new doctor: Rely on verified data and medical experts. Because clinical experience is a top factor in finding the right doctor, especially for those with chronic conditions and rare diseases, a smarter way is to use MediFind, which gathers accurate information about each provider’s areas of expertise and clinical experience into one easy-to-search database.
To determine a doctor’s level of expertise, MediFind’s algorithm sorts through information about a doctor’s research, patient volume with the given condition, standing with other experts in that condition, and connectedness to other doctors researching that condition. The result? You get connected ASAP to the best care for you. Find a doctor on MediFind now.
How to switch doctors without an interruption in care
For people with chronic conditions and serious diagnoses, switching doctors is no small feat. You have to consider continuity of care and ensure that your treatment plan and medical records transfer over to the new doctor so you can get the best care possible.
Schedule an appointment and meet with your new provider first.
Before you cut ties with your old provider, make sure you have a new provider lined up whom you like. This is to ensure that you don’t go without any doctor in the meantime (in case your condition flares up or you need a new prescription, for example). You can use MediFind to locate a doctor by specialty, condition, procedure, or name. Call their office and let them know you’re a new patient interested in a first appointment with the new provider.
Before scheduling, ask the office if they’re in network with your insurance plan. To avoid any unexpected charges, it’s also a good idea to double-check this by calling your insurance provider and verifying that this doctor is in network.
At your initial appointment with the new provider, bring a list of questions and discuss any concerns you may have.
Talk to your old provider.
As discussed earlier, you may need to speak with your old provider to discuss your transfer of care. For medication, make sure you have enough supply to last you until you get another prescription from your new provider, or ask your old provider to write another script to hold you over until you establish care with the new doctor.
Submit a medical records request.
Lastly, you need to transfer your medical records from your old provider to your new one. To do this, submit a medical records request. The fastest way to do this is to ask your new provider to request records from your old provider on your behalf (you do still need to sign a form that authorizes your new provider to do this). That way, your new doctor can go through the process of obtaining your records for you, and you can avoid spending time or paying fees that providers are legally allowed to charge for making copies and mailing them.
You deserve the best healthcare for you
There are many reasons to switch doctors, but the choice is ultimately yours—and you don’t need to feel bad about it. It’s part of patient autonomy, where you get to decide what’s best for your health.
Not sure where to start? Try searching MediFind for a provider with clinical expertise in your specific condition or procedure.