What to Know Before You Change Doctors

Featured Article, Power to the Patient
on July 29, 2013
TIps for finding a new family doctor.

There are lots of reasons you might want to change doctors. Maybe you’re planning to move out of the area. Maybe your insurance plan has recently changed, and your current doctor isn’t covered. Or perhaps you’ve just grown disenchanted with your provider and want to give someone else a try.

But whatever your reason for leaving, you may want to consider taking a few steps to ensure that you get the best possible care into the future.

Read your insurance policy.  “Before you select your new doctor, it will make your life a lot easier if you look within your network,” says Ankeny Minoux, chief operating officer for the Foundation for Health Coverage Education. “You don’t want a surprise.” By making sure your new physician is covered by your health insurance, you won’t get stuck with a hefty bill for seeing an out-of-network provider.

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Notify your current doctor’s office about why you’re leaving. “We’d like to know the reasons why, and maybe they’re correctible,” said Dr. David De La Rosa, an internist with HealthCare Partners in Torrance, Calif. The office might even ask for your feedback on how to rectify the situation so that you might consider staying (if possible). Be as courteous as possible.

Don’t burn any bridges. It might be tempting to lob a few choice words at the staff if you’re upset or disgruntled, but resist the urge. Thank everyone as politely as possible. “That goes a long way,” says Minoux. You never know when you might have to call the office and request another set of records, test results or other information. Or your new doctor or specialist may need to contact them.

RELATED: How to Ask for a Second Opinion 

Request a copy of your chart. This is particularly important if you’re leaving town or moving away. It may take a few weeks to get a copy, Minoux notes. But be forewarned; some doctors’ offices will charge you a copying fee for a paper copy of your medical record.

Procure your prescriptions. You might not be able to get in to see your new provider right away. “Make sure you have enough medication to carry you through the next one or two months,” says Patricio Camacho, who handles patient outreach for Dr. De La Rosa. In fact, he suggests asking for a three-month prescription to make sure you have enough medication to last you through the transition.  It’s also a good idea to have a current list of all diagnoses and outstanding referrals to subspecialists.

Make an appointment with your new provider. It’s always a good idea to get to know your new provider—and vice versa—right away. Don’t wait until you’re sick or running out of medication to get established with the new doctor.

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