Aug 23, 2009

Doctor Shopping (Finding a Doctor: Part 3)

Okay, so you make an appointment and see your new primary doctor. Sometimes it is the perfect match. If so, excellent! But some relationships that looked great on paper just don't work out in real life and you need to keep moving. This is where things can get tricky. Physicians are very sensitive about "doctor shopping" patients, so you need to learn how to doctor shop with caution.

First, all doctors (including Doctor D) are arrogant narcissists who always think they are the best doc around. They can't understand why any patient would leave their brilliant care for a second-rate hack.

Second, if you are coming from another doctor or several previous doctors, your new doctor may look at you with suspicion. Doctors assume that those who have been promiscuous with their medical care must be unable to have meaningful relationships. The doctor might assume that you are a "difficult patient" (crazy, demanding, rude, etc.) or a "drug seeker" (addicted to prescription medicines). These are the two dirtiest names doctors call their patients. You don't want to get either label.

So you must approach first visits mindful that doctors are a sensitive, suspicious bunch. The best strategy is to let the doc know right up front you aren't committing to a serious doctor-patient relationship just yet. Say that you are playing the field and if you move on they shouldn't get their feelings hurt. If you do so in a polite way, pointing out that sometimes even the best of doctors won't work out, you should be able to leave the doctor' fragile ego intact. (Many of Doctor D's ex-girlfriends successfully implemented a similar "it's not you, it's me" exit strategy.) This way the doctor isn't upset if you leave and feels extra special if you stay.

Also on your first visit it is essential that you never tell your doctor about what jerks your previous doctors were. Your new doctor will likely assume that you did something to deserve the abuse. Never mention the name of a narcotic pain medicine you just can't live without. If you are a bit unstable try to not to show all the crazy on the first visit. Think about it like a first date. Be yourself, but be the nicest version of yourself.

Unfortunately, the primary care doctor who is stressed and overworked may not be the nicest version of him or herself at the first visit. This can be a good opportunity to see what your doctor is really like. Will the relationship work? Only you can answer that.

Even in today's depressing healthcare system there are lots of examples of really good doctor-patient relationships. So don't give up! The right primary doctor for you is out there.

Doctor D would love to hear patients' perspectives, advice, or horror stories on first doctor's visits.

Read the "How to find a Doctor" Series


Bella said...

Dr. D,

It has been my experience that my family care physician was going through his own personal burnout as coming across saying things such as "the healthcare system won't let him doctor" ... but at the same time seemed noninterested in truly doctoring! rolling his eyes and telling me he didn't know what to do for me?! ... what an asshole! Needless to say I was huffed and left pronto! That is more likely why people doctor shop to find a doctor who does care!

Anonymous said...

Great post. Thank you.

Doctor D said...

Warmsocks wrote a great post on her blog today telling the story of several (good and bad) first visits:

Click here to read her post

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