7 Signs It's Time to Switch Doctors

7 Signs It's Time to Switch Doctors

We have the expert scoop on when you should look for a new health care provider.

By Heather Chaet

Maintaining good, solid relationships -- no matter if you see the person every day or just three times a year -- is a part of life. But when those connections aren’t the greatest, well, you have to do something about it.

One of the hardest relationships to figure out is the one with your doctor. How can you tell if your doctor is the best one for you? Do you know when it’s time to look for a different health care provider? Here, medical experts share the top signs you need to switch doctors.

1. You feel rushed. Describing your symptoms takes three minutes. The “breathe in, breathe out” cursory exam racks up an additional eight. Your doctor hands you a slip of paper and, whoosh, is gone. The total time your doctor spent with you? 16 rushed minutes. If this speedy scenario sounds familiar, it may be time to look for a different doctor. “Your doctor should be your health mentor and partner, willing to have an open conversation,” says Dr. Tereza Hubkova, internationally known speaker and expert in integrative medicine. “If your doctor doesn't ask, ‘Is there anything more you'd like to talk about?’ prior to leaving the exam room, and rather seems to want to rush out, then it may be time to find a new doctor.”

2. Your doctor doesn’t listen to you. If you find yourself leaving an appointment without having been able to tell your doctor everything you needed to, it may be time to find a new health care professional. “Your doctor should be a good listener,” says Hubkova. “Too many serious illnesses have been overlooked by doctors with preconceptions jumping to conclusions. Find a new doctor if he or she interrupts you before you’ve had a chance to provide all relevant information. Doctors are often busy, so come to your appointment prepared, and be concise.”

Family physician Dr. Bola Oyeyipo agrees. “If your doctor doesn’t make the effort to hear you out, listen, or acknowledge your concerns, you should start searching for a new doctor.”

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3. There is no explanation or discussion about the prescribed treatment. You are given a prescription or are told to do X, Y, and Z to feel better. It’s a relief that you have a plan, but understanding why you have that course of treatment is just as important as doing it. “I like to explain why I am asking somebody to change their diet, or exercise more,” says Hubkova. “Simply saying, ‘You should do this or that,’ is not nearly as effective as taking the time to explain that 90 percent of heart attacks can be prevented with healthy lifestyle and what exactly that means.”

4. You constantly have to wait. They are called waiting rooms for a reason. But if you find yourself spending more time in the waiting room than in the exam room every time you visit your physician, it’s a sign you need to look elsewhere. “Delays happen in every doctor’s practice, but if your patience is not acknowledged or the tardiness becomes habitual, it could mean that your doctor does not respect your time,” says Oyeyipo.

Psychiatrist and bestselling author Dr. Carole Lieberman agrees, and believes one particular warning sign is finding yourself waiting for at least half an hour for every appointment. Another: “If [your doctor] has a waiting room filled with patients, making you feel like you’re on an assembly line.”

5. Your doctor doesn’t look at you while you are talking about your symptoms. If your doctor asks you about your eating habits and then starts typing as you talk, he may be missing some vital elements to assess your health. “Much of a patient’s story is often told without words,” notes Hubkova. “If your doctor doesn't look at you, instead staring at a computer screen or even has his or her back turned towards you, it's time to look for another doctor. It's not just what disease the patient has, but what patient has the disease.”


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6. The rest of the staff is not helpful or pleasant. You see them when you check in. They take your temperature and weigh you. They call you with test results two days later. From the nurses to the billing staff, if the folks surrounding your doctor are dismissive or not friendly, that’s a huge sign to switch to a new provider. “You need the clinic staff to assist you with appointments, referrals, and callbacks,” says Oyeyipo. “Chances are, you will spend more time with the medical support personnel than with your doctor. Even if your doctor is the nicest person, if your doctor’s staff is nasty or hostile, it may not be worth the aggravation.”

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7. Your doctor is not compassionate. Whether it is just listening to a story about your son or discussing a possible serious diagnosis, your doctor should be sensitive and understanding. It’s not acceptable to have a poor bedside manner, even if he or she is excellent at everything else. “One red flag that you should switch doctors is if he’s cold, disinterested, not compassionate or sympathetic, especially when he’s delivering sensitive news,” notes Lieberman.

Bariatric and laparoscopic surgeon Dr. Ayotunde Adeyeri adds that when a doctor explains you may need surgery, he or she should welcome whatever process you need to go through to feel comfortable. “If you are facing surgery or an invasive procedure, your doctor should never react negatively if you seek a second opinion before proceeding,” says Adeyeri. “Quality doctors know the importance of patient trust throughout their medical treatment. Ultimately, the less stressed the patient is, the quicker his or her recovery will be.”

If you’ve encountered some of these red flags when visiting your doctor, it may be time to rethink who you choose as your health care provider. If you do need to “break up” with your doctor and you find that difficult, Oyeyipo suggests you bring a trusted family member to that appointment or doing it in writing, if that makes the situation less stressful for you. The main thing to remember: You are in charge of your health, and you owe it to yourself to seek out the best health care provider you can find.

When did you last visit your doctor?

Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at heatherchaet.com, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

Image ©iStock.com/XiXinXing

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