Tips For Transitioning To A New Doctor

Deciding to transition to a new doctor can be a tough and complicated decision. In the case of any medical professional — whether it be a primary care practitioner, a specialist, or even a mental health counselor — you've likely shared some personal information about your health status. For some, you may have been working on finding treatment for a particular condition.

However, it's completely normal to want to leave (or "break up with") one doctor for another, especially in instances where you may have felt uncomfortable or uncared for. According to CNN, some common reasons for seeking out a new doctor include feeling like your current provider doesn't listen to you or can't explain an illness in a way you can understand. When you've made the decision to start seeing a new practitioner, Blue Cross Blue Shield advises that you consider logistical factors first, like their health expertise or whether they're covered by your health insurance. Read on to find our top tips for ensuring that your doctor change is as smooth as possible.

When should you see a new doctor?

Making the decision to leave one doctor's office for another isn't easy. Patients may feel like their emotions aren't worth acting upon, especially since changing doctors may require some uncomfortable conversations and work. Your health is never something to take for granted, though — and if you don't like your doctor or feel that they don't care for you in a way you'd like, it's completely valid to look for someone new.

As stated by U.S. News, finding that your doctor doesn't respect your time or realizing that you don't mesh well with them are understandable reasons for wanting to leave the practice. A doctor should make their patients feel understood and comfortable by listening to any symptoms or potential causes of pain. In more serious cases, doctors also have the power to put their patients in danger. According to Thrive Family Medicine, while doctors aren't perfect, it's an entirely different story — and quite dangerous — if you discover that they misdiagnosed you, especially without clear and immediate communication. 

Additionally, if they do anything to violate your rights as a patient (for example, sharing confidential information with a third party without your permission), you should file a complaint about them with your state medical board and leave as soon as possible.

What should you do before transitioning to a new doctor?

Once you've made the decision to leave your current practice, there are a few logistical things you should take care of.

When choosing a new doctor, you can ask people you trust for recommendations, like friends or family members (via My Healthfinder). If you have health insurance, you can also use your network to find medical professionals that are covered by your plan, by either calling or visiting their website. By chatting with your insurance provider, you may also be able to find out what the co-pay is for different types of appointments, making sure that it's affordable, too.

NPR recommends "shopping around" for a new doctor by contacting different offices and scheduling preliminary appointments to see if you make a connection with them. You can also use external sources to read ratings and reviews of your potential new doctor. You'll want to make sure that they're currently accepting new patients. Lastly, make sure to obtain your medical records and receive any important health information that should be communicated to your new doctor, as stated by the Washington Post. You don't need to personally meet with your old doctor to get this done — just head to the front desk and make your request there.

Securing a copy of your medical records

One of the most important steps when transitioning doctors is obtaining a copy of your medical records. According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), there are a few different ways to go about this. If your provider has an online portal you can log into, you may be able to find some key information about your health history, such as your immunization records and recent lab and test results.

If your practice doesn't have digital copies of your health records, you can check their website to see if they provide any guidelines on retrieving them. This may be by calling, filling out a form, or emailing. Should you not be comfortable with looking online, you can call the office and ask, or even go in for a visit to talk to the administrative staff or health information department.

As stated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a provider isn't allowed to deny you your records, even if you haven't fully paid for services received by your doctor. However, it's important to note that in the case of mental health professionals, you're not allowed to view any psychotherapy notes, since these are kept separate from billing and medical information.

Ask your old doctor for a status report on any recurring health conditions

Before leaving your old doctor's practice, you should get a general status update on your health. If you don't have any physical health conditions that require frequent briefing, this may just look like a regular checkup, where you talk through blood pressure readings and exercise and nutrition habits (via Mayo Clinic).

However, if you have recurring illnesses or conditions, it's doubly important to discuss recent treatments or symptoms and concerns. By receiving this status report, you'll be up to date with any potential issues that should be talked about with your new doctor. Additionally, you'll be aware of your health condition.

As stated by the National Institute of Aging, you can ask for written materials or request that they clarify anything you don't completely understand. You may even want to take notes (or have someone there with you that you trust to take notes, like a partner, friend, or family member) so you don't forget any information that's crucial to your diagnosis, preventative care, or potential treatment options.

Talk to your new office about any special accommodations needed

Should you have any type of mental or physical handicap, you should ensure that your visit to your new doctor is as comfortable as possible. To do this, you can talk to your new practice and request accommodations for parking, moving around throughout the office, and more. You'll want to make sure that you alert your new provider relatively ahead of time. This way, they will have ample time to prepare for you.

Asking for any type of accommodation can be intimidating, but you shouldn't let that anxiety get the best of you. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that ensures any disabled person receives adequate opportunities as anyone else, in public and private places (via the ADA National Network). This means that disabled people have every right to request things like a wheelchair, paperwork with large print, braille displays, and so on, as explained by the Office of Disability Rights.

Have contact information for specialists available

If you see other specialists or doctors outside of your primary care practitioner, you should have their contact information ready to go. Your new doctor will likely ask you their names, phone numbers, and what you see them for.

In some cases, your doctor may even want to keep in touch with your network of health providers, so that everyone's on the same page. According to Consumer Reports, communication between patients and specialists is especially important when coordinating care of certain health conditions. In the event that you're hospitalized or experiencing uncomfortable or dangerous symptoms, it's crucial that your team of doctors are all made aware of what's happening to you.

It's also important to note that doctors may talk to each other about your medical records. As stated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), it's okay to share patient records and information, as long as it's deemed necessary.

Take your medications to your new doctor

If you're currently taking any medications, you should definitely let your new doctor know about them. Take the actual medication bottle to your new practitioner, to ensure that any and all crucial information about your medicine will not be miscommunicated. Your new doctor can also take a look at any notes that were provided by the prescribing doctor to make sure that everything is correct.

Additionally, in the event that you're taking more than one medication, your new doctor can confirm that they're okay to be taken together and there aren't any dosage errors (via Cardiovascular Institute of the South). Poor medication interactions can occur, even if they've all been prescribed by the same doctor.

You can also chat about any side effects or complications you may be experiencing. If your new doctor is fine with your medications, they'll be able to continue refilling them at your pharmacy, too, as noted by the Shenandoah Community Clinic.