Knowing when to find a new healthcare provider

Your primary care provider (PCP) is the person you see for yearly physicals and when you’re sick. Your PCP also sends you to see specialists and other care providers. The relationship that you have with your primary care provider is important. You want someone who understands you and the health issues you’re facing.

In a perfect world, ALL healthcare providers are great. They care about you, they have plenty of time to see you, they read up on the latest treatments, and they aren’t afraid to admit when they don’t have all the answers. If they can’t help you, they’ll find someone else who can.

In the real world, though, that’s not always the case. Healthcare providers are human, too. They’re trying to balance your care with long hours at work, too many other patients, insurance rules, paperwork, and not enough time to get everything done.

You and your PCP (or other care provider) may have times when you don’t see eye to eye.  If you talk about the issues together, you’ll probably find an answer that everyone can live with. But here are some comments from healthcare providers that should raise red flags:

  • “You’re getting worked up over nothing.”
  • “I don’t have to see those articles from the Internet. I know what I’m doing.”
  • “I only have a couple of minutes to see you. If it takes any longer, you’ll have to make another appointment.”
  • “You don’t need to get a second opinion.”

The tipping point

Like every other relationship in your life, the one that you have with your primary care provider is a series of trade-offs. Whether you stay or go depends on the kind of bond that’s between you, and what you feel is most important. For example, are you willing to trade a care provider who’s warm and caring for one who may not be as warm, but who knows your illness and medical history inside-out? Is it important to have your questions answered in plain English? Do you want your PCP to take the reins when it comes to choosing a treatment? Or do you want an equal say in what happens next? There are a lot of different options to think about. What works for you may not work well for someone else.

Of course, the type of PCP who meets your needs might drive your family or friends crazy – but that shouldn’t matter.  If – in general – you’re happy with this person, then stay. But if you have a nagging feeling that something’s not right, and there seem to be more negatives in your relationship than positives, then you may have hit your personal tipping point. It’s time to take stock.

Warning signs

There’s a big difference between the quirks in a normal relationship and the larger issues that mean you’re not being respected or taken seriously. We all have our bad days every once in a while. But there’s a problem if all of your medical appointments seem to fall on your primary care provider’s bad days.

Here are some of the warning signs. Pay attention if your PCP:

  • Is rude to you or seems angry much of the time.
  • Doesn’t want you to get a second opinion about your diagnosis or treatment.
  • Shows no interest in what you’re saying, or acts like your concerns don’t matter.
  • Doesn’t return your phone calls.
  • Doesn’t let you know the results of testing that you’ve had done.
  • Won’t speak with (or listen to) other doctors who are part of your medical team.
  • Acts annoyed when you ask questions.
  • Always interrupts you.
  • Doesn’t answer your questions in a way you can understand.
  • Won’t look at, or talk about, information that you’ve brought to your appointment about your illness.
  • Acts in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Has an office staff that treats you rudely or seems unorganized.
  • Makes you feel like you’re stupid if you don’t understand what he or she is saying.

These warning signs can also apply to your specialists or other care providers. You may be a little more willing to put up with bad behavior if you only see these other care providers once or twice a year. But you should hold a higher standard for the day-to-day person who manages your overall care.  This person needs to be someone you can trust, who has your best interests at heart.

Yes, it’s work to find a new PCP, especially if you’ve been with the same one for years. But a provider who doesn’t treat you properly isn’t doing you any favors. Find a health professional that’s right for you.



Five prescriptions you won’t find in your doctor’s bag: When and how to fire your doctor.

Nine signs you should fire your doctor (US News and World Report)

How to change doctors

Is it time to change doctors?

Consumer Health Reports: When it’s time to fire your doctor