In an ideal world, you would keep the same primary care physician (PCP) for life, but circumstances rarely afford this opportunity. There are several reasons you may need to switch your primary care doctor, and you may not know how to even begin what may seem like a daunting process. Use our guide below to help determine if the time is right for a change, how to go about the transition, and make certain you are moving to a different doctor’s care for the right reasons.
How to Change Primary Care Physicians
It’s always best to find a new doctor before you leave your old one to make sure you have a seamless transition of care. Before establishing care with a new family medicine doctor or internist, you will want to be sure they accept your health insurance. Whether you have Medicare, private insurance through your employer, or another type of coverage, this step is often as simple as calling your insurance provider or visiting their website. You can obtain a list of participating PCPs in your area and sometimes even find out if these doctors are accepting new patients.
Once you have found a new doctor, you should contact your previous PCP’s office and arrange to have your medical records transferred to your new provider. This step may not be necessary if you are switching to a physician within the same practice group as your previous doctor.
The final step is your first visit to establish care. Remember, even if they already have your old medical records, your new PCP is seeing you for the first time. They will likely ask you many questions, and you may need to fill out extensive paperwork regarding your personal medical history, family medical history, current medications, and more.
When is the Right Time to Change Doctors
There is no particular best time to switch physicians, although outside influences may force your hand, for example, if your doctor is retiring or moving. In those cases, it is best to plan your transition of care as soon as you have been notified of your doctor’s status. Then there are timing considerations given your life choices or family status. For instance, if you have a child who is “growing out” of their pediatrician, it often makes sense to pinpoint the most appropriate time to transition from pediatrician to a family medicine doctor.
Why Change Your Primary Care Physician
There are numerous valid reasons to find a new healthcare provider. Common factors that can be a catalyst to considering a transition include:
- Change in your insurance coverage and/or provider
- Relocation of your job or home that makes the office location inconvenient
- Need for expertise: For example, if you are diagnosed with a chronic health condition, you might want a PCP with a particular interest or specialization in that condition.
- Change in relationship with your doctor and/or inability to communicate effectively
- Your doctor seems rushed and you don’t feel like they are spending enough time with you
- It’s hard to make a timely appointment
- You don’t feel knowledgeable about your health and lack receiving education from your physician
While you and your doctor have both invested in the patient-doctor relationship, making a change may not be easy for either of you. In addition to the relationship you are ending, is the time, paperwork and details that are part of the process in switching doctors, so this is a decision not to be taken lightly.
If you are ready to make a change in your primary care physician, search PACT’s list of Connecticut based, board-certified family medicine and internal medicine specialists here.