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How To Change Doctors

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Before changing doctors, be sure to read our article:What To Do If You Are Considering Switching Doctors. If you still want to change doctors, consider the following steps:

Step 1. Find a new doctor before leaving the current doctor.

  • This step ensures continuity of care without a break.
  • If you get sick, you may need your current doctor before you've found a new one.
  • If you are in a managed care plan and are changing your Primary Care Physician (PCP), call their customer service number and let them know immediately when a change is made.
  • To learn how to choose:
    • a primary care doctor, click here
    • a specialist, click here.
    • a surgeon, click here
    • an oncologist, click here.
    • an HIV doctor, click here.

Step 2. When you interview potential new doctors, let them know you are leaving another doctor and considering switching to their practice.

  • You may be pressed for the reasons you are leaving your current doctor. It's okay to state a general cause such as you "are having communication problems. I need a doctor I can communicate with." This gives you an opening to explain the kind of communication you want with your doctor and learn if the doctor you're interviewing works for you.
  • It is not okay to trash your last doctor. It will make the doctor wonder if you'll be doing the same thing to them.
  • Be aware that during the process of searching for a new doctor, it is possible that your current doctor will learn of your looking around. This is particularly the case if you are looking at other doctors connected with the same hospital or same group. "Just in case," be prepared to be asked by your doctor why you're looking around. A very general answer is perfectly acceptable. Also let the doctor know that while you are considering switching doctors, you expect the doctor to continue to treat you until you make a decision and act on it.

Step 3. Once a new doctor has agreed to treat you, you'll need to have your medical records forwarded. You can meet with your former doctor and tell him or her that you are leaving and ask that the doctor forward the records, or you can write a letter or e mail. You do not have to have a conversation with your current doctor stating that you are leaving, or why, if you don't want to.

  • All you have to do is ask in writing that your records be transferred to another doctor's office. With your request:
    • Include all the information needed to forward your medical records. Since you already informed the former doctor or his/her office that you are leaving, you do not need to state in the letter why you want the records set.
    • Ask when the medical records will be sent, and how.
    • If you prefer, you can use this letter as the means to let the doctor know you are switching -- but you don't have to.

Step 4. Contact your new doctor to confirm receipt of all of your records.

  • If the records don't arrive on time, follow up with your current doctor's staff.

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