Written By: Roberta Codemo
I am one of those people who never got sick until I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. It was my gynecologic oncologist who suggested I find a primary care provider. I’m a freelance health journalist and I’d interviewed a family medicine doctor whom I really liked and she was taking new patients.
I scheduled an appointment with her, and we established a great rapport. I’d still be seeing her had she not left the practice and moved away. After she left, the office referred me to another family medicine doctor in the practice, so I scheduled a get-acquainted appointment with her.
At my first visit, I was taken back to an exam room where I waited for more than an hour. During that time, no one checked on me. No one told me the reason for the delay. No one told me how much longer it was going to be. I was getting ready to leave when she finally came in.
She introduced herself and started taking my medical history when there was a knock on the door. Another patient needed to catch a bus and had to ask her some questions. The doctor left the room in the middle of my scheduled appointment and returned almost an hour later. It had taken more than a month to schedule this appointment and by this time I was upset.
When she came back in, I stood up and walked over to the door and proceeded to tell her this was not the way to treat a new patient and that my time was just as valuable as her other patients and it was unprofessional for her to walk out in the middle of an appointment to see another patient and now I had missed my bus and was going to have to walk home. She started crying, as I opened the door and walked out. I never went back.
That was the first time I fired a doctor, and it wouldn’t be the last.
The second time, I was seeing an internal medicine doctor for gastrointestinal issues. Because my symptoms would vary from appointment to appointment, she would order tests based on the symptoms of the week rather than looking at the big picture. When she wanted to schedule exploratory surgery, I knew enough was enough and parted ways with her.
Most recently, I ended the doctor-patient relationship I’d established with another internal medicine doctor whom I’d been going to for a while. I’m overweight but had suddenly started gaining weight and put on 20 pounds in less than two weeks. I scheduled an appointment with her because I was concerned.
Rather than focusing on possible medical causes for the sudden weight gain, she focused on my weight and said I was gaining weight because I didn’t know how to eat properly and wanted to schedule an appointment for me with a dietician. When I questioned her about other causes, she said she could order medical tests but they wouldn’t show anything because the reason I was gaining weight was because I was overeating. I told her if that was the case, I wouldn’t have scheduled an appointment with her. I’d already told her I hadn’t been eating and didn’t have an appetite. When she started badgering me about what and how much I ate, I knew she wasn’t going to listen to me and got up and left and ended up filing a complaint against her.
Incidents like the above are the rule rather than the exception. When is it time to fire your primary care provider? Below are four red flags to watch for.
When To Fire Your Primary Care Provider
Does Your Doctor Listen To You? Doctors are human too and come with their own set of biases. If you find your doctor is downplaying, judging, or worse yet, dismissing your symptoms and concerns, it may be time to move on. The doctor-patient relationship is a two-way street and you deserve to have your symptoms and concerns taken seriously.
Does Your Doctor Have Time For You? Things happen. Emergencies come up and your doctor is called away. But if you routinely find yourself waiting an hour or more to see them, it may be time to move on. If you have problems scheduling an appointment, there are constant interruptions, or your appointments are rushed - these are signs that you may not get the care that you deserve. Doctors typically have less than 15 minutes with each patient and that time should be devoted to giving you their full attention.
Does Your Doctor Answer Your Questions? A good doctor takes the time to listen to and respond to your questions in easy-to-understand language. Your doctor may not be able to give you a diagnosis but if they don’t take the time to discuss treatment options or diagnostic tests with you, it may be time to move on. You deserve to have your concerns addressed.
Does Your Doctor Mesh With You? Do you feel at ease around your doctor? What does your gut tell you? If something feels off, it may be time to move on. If you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor, you’re not going to feel comfortable sharing the most intimate details of your health with them. You don’t need to have a “warm and fuzzy relationship” with them, but if that degree of trust isn’t there, you may find yourself continually second-guessing what they have to say.
Once you’ve decided it’s time to move on and find a new primary care provider, how do you go about it? Below is the best way to fire your doctor and make a fresh start.
How To Fire Your Primary Care Provider
There is a right and wrong way to fire your primary care provider. Before it gets to that stage, however, schedule time to talk with your doctor and let them know your concerns. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to them face-to-face, call or send them a letter. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed to resolve issues and you don’t have to take the next irrevocable step.
If it’s gotten to the point where you’re ready to part ways, don’t be like me and just walk out. It can take time to find a new doctor so make sure you have another one lined up to ensure continuity of care. Ideally, schedule a get acquainted visit with your new doctor first to make sure you mesh before you fire your doctor. Be sure to request a copy of your medical records. By law, your doctor must provide you with a copy.
As for me, I’m still searching for a primary care provider. Deciding to fire your primary care provider isn’t one to be taken lightly, but the choice is yours. If you’re no longer happy with the care that your doctor provides, it’s time to sever your relationship. It’s your health and you deserve to find a doctor who respects you as a patient and listens to you.
Meet the Author Roberta Codemo Roberta Codemo is a stage three endometrial cancer survivor who writes about women's health care and gynecologic cancer. She is a passionate patient advocate who believes all women should have a voice when it comes to their health needs.