By Carol Eustice, About.com Guide
Updated June 14, 2008
Doctors have strengths and weaknesses. How does your doctor's "bedside manner" match up with your personality?
• Are you confident in your doctor's ability?
• Do you feel that you understand the directives and decisions made by your doctor?
• Are you encouraged to ask questions?
• Is the overall experience at your doctor's office positive?
The relationship between a doctor and patient is very important. If you're answering no to most of the questions it may be time for a change.
1. Lack of Confidence in Doctor's Ability
A patient must trust their doctor. Patients are more likely to be compliant with their treatment plan if they have confidence in their doctor's ability. A patient consults with a doctor for their expertise as a diagnostician and ability to problem-solve. A patient should not routinely leave the doctor's office feeling uneasy about decisions and recommendations which are made by the doctor. If you find yourself doing that, it may be time to fire your doctor.
2. Lack of Continuity Between Visits
The nature of chronic illness implies you will be seeing a doctor many times to help you manage your condition. With copious notes in your medical chart, your doctor should be able to recall your prior visit and gauge your progress. Doctors are busy and they see many patients, so it's not always perfect. If you constantly have to repeat yourself and if you feel that your doctor isn't following along, it may be time to fire your doctor.
3. Questions Are Not Welcome
Patients go to doctors in search of answers. Patients want to know what's wrong, their treatment options, and what they can expect going forward. While some doctors allow a reasonable amount of time for patient questions, other doctors are unapproachable and discourage questions. If it's difficult to have a dialogue with your doctor about your health care, it may be time to fire your doctor.
4. Doctor Is Not Forthcoming
Does your doctor share all pertinent diagnostic test results with you? Does your doctor share why a specific test is being ordered or why a specific treatment plan has been chosen over another? For example, your doctor may give you an order for an MRI -- or your doctor may tell you why you need to have an MRI and explain what he is trying to rule out, and then give you the order for the MRI. If you feel uninformed more often than not, it may be time to fire your doctor.
5. Doctor Is Cold and Unsympathetic
It's important that you understand your doctor, but it is equally important that you be understood by your doctor. Does your doctor understand how your medical condition impacts various aspects of your life? Is your doctor sympathetic about your problem or is your doctor's demeanor cold and abrupt? You must feel that your doctor truly cares about your well-being, otherwise it may be time to fire your doctor.
6. Excessively Long Wait to Get an Appointment
You may encounter a long waiting period when you try to set up a doctor appointment. Doctors have very busy schedules, especially specialists and surgeons. As the joke goes - I wouldn't want to go to a doctor who will see you the next day. A busy doctor is often a popular doctor with a great reputation. However, by waiting too long for an appointment, you may be compromising your health. If the wait seems unreasonable, find another doctor.
7. Doctor Is Always Rushed
Do you have your doctor's full attention during your appointments, or do you sense that your doctor's mind is cluttered by other matters unrelated to you? Do you feel that you're being hurried? Has your doctor ever backed out of the room before you were able to ask all of your questions? If you are left feeling that not enough time is devoted to you during your appointments, it may be time to fire your doctor.
8. Inconvenient Location
It can be stressful and inconvenient to have to drive a long distance to see your doctor, especially if you have mobility problems. Some patients who live in rural areas have fewer options, but convenience is a factor to be considered. Where will the doctor send you for blood tests, x-rays, and other tests? What are your doctor's hospital affiliations? Be sure your situation is either convenient or agreeable to you, otherwise you may want to find another doctor.
9. Cost / Coverage
If your insurance does not cover your doctor's fees, it is unlikely you would want to stay with that doctor. Know the details of your individual health plan and be certain that your doctor is available to you on the provider list. If not, you may want to find another doctor so your medical costs will be covered by your insurance.
10. Doctor Is Not Respectful
Is your doctor harsh when speaking to you? Does your doctor consider your fears and apprehension when making decisions, or are your feelings disregarded? Does your doctor respect that your time is as important as their own, or does your doctor leave you languishing in the waiting room for unreasonably long periods of time? Do you feel respected as a person by your doctor? If not, it may be time to fire your doctor.
Great post! After all - Docs work for us. I'm reading a great book called "How Doctors Think" by Jerome Groopman, MD. It gives great insight from the MD's perspective on how they respond to patients, how they come up with diagnosis etc.
Excellent post---thank you. This is valuable information for us. I had a doctor confuse me with someone else once. He was such a empathic guy I never said anything about it. Next visit he remembered me.
I'm lucky my GP, neuro and neuro-ophtha pass this one with flying colours, with #9 thankfully being N/A in Canada. At times with my neuro it can feel a little like pulling teeth but with him I've learned to asked the right questions and when I'm prepared for that, he does provide the info I'm looking for.
I have had docs in the past that were great on all counts but perhaps somewhat cold, and I really don't care about that. I'd rather have a doc that knows their stuff and makes things happen and follows up than one who will give me a hug or sympathetic ear.
It is reality in our area that MS Specialists have so many patients they can't remember you very well but that does not make them bad doctors. it is over a 1/2000 ratio. I could not recall all my patients.
What is excessively long 6-8 months that is the norm.
The way insurance and medical work in the U.S. it is one complaint per visit. So generally I can ask questions about one symptom only.
My PCP is great but she has to make money to keep her doors open so she is always rushed.
Cost is always a factor my last Neurology visit was $895 my cost. I am sick now but do not call my Doctors because I will be paying that bill for a year.
My Doctors are competent and caring but the medical system does not give them much choice on the other stuff.
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