Dealing with a doctor’s office can sometimes be frustrating: appointment delays, slow test results, unreturned phone calls. When is it bad enough to warrant changing doctors?
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Question: I had some blood work and a carotid duplex scan done about six weeks ago. I called the clinic and tried to get the results of the tests four different times. I finally called the hospital where I had the scan done to see if I could get a copy of the results. I was able to do that and found out everything was normal.
Wednesday, my husband had to go and have an echo done on his legs to see if he has any blockage. We got home from his appointment and had a message on our answering machine from my doctor at the clinic. He said that he had a note on his desk saying I had called the day before (which I hadn’t) and was letting me know that my blood work showed that I had some sort of infection. Nothing was said about wanting to see me or putting me on antibiotics or anything. I think I need to find another doctor. I want your opinion.
Answer: Unless you have discussed your concerns with the doctor or his office staff, I would not rush to find another doctor.
I limit changing doctors to situations in which I have an unacceptable personal relationship with the doctor or no longer have confidence in their medical decision making. You are describing a series of problems in office-patient communications. In most offices, making those communications function effectively is the responsibility of the office manager.
My suggestion in situations such as this is that the patient:
Call and ask for an appointment to speak to the office manager either in person or by telephone. (This means that the office manager should not be right in the middle of five other things when asked to speak with you, and he/she will be far more able to think clearly about your issues.)
Lay out the facts as you see them.
Tell the office manager your communication expectations.
Ask if they think your expectations are unreasonable. If they do, discuss them; if they do not, ask that they work to meet those expectations.
Close with, “I do not wish to be forced to change from a doctor in whom I have confidence simply because their office cannot communicate with me medically important information. I am certain you do not want that either. I look forward to your efforts to make these problems things of the past.”
Generally, this works. If it does not, ask for time to speak to the doctor with the manager either present or on the phone, and repeat steps 1-5 above.
Dr. Barry W. Wolcott, is the senior vice president for clinical affairs at WebMD. WebMD content is provided to MSNBC by the editorial staff of WebMD. The MSNBC editorial staff does not participate in the creation of WebMD content and is not responsible for WebMD content. Remember that editorial content is never a substitute for a visit to a health care professional.