I'm seeing another doctor behind my family doctor's back.

I like my family doctor - a lot. But I was feeling needy and he wasn't clucking and cooing over me particularly responsive. I wanted another opinion. Doctor-shopping? I don't think so, but maybe. Whatever.

A friend who's a doctor seemed like a good place to turn. Sure enough, he was concerned, sympathetic and thorough. This is all I want in a doctor.

He ordered a diagnostic test, which we followed through on (aha! I was right about the urgency), and he lined out a plan for a remedy. I'll be shipshape in no time.

My family doctor knows nothing about this. I don't want to hurt his feelings, which is why I didn't tell him in the first place. Really, I want to move over to the new doctor completely.

I'm a grown-up. Usually I'm adept at managing interpersonal minefields. Why do I feel like a sneaky cheater who's late-dating the downstairs neighbor?

This is a small town. These doctors work in the same building, and there's a low-grade rivalry.

Somebody please tell me how to gracefully transfer my medical care.


  1. Call the front desk and ask for your records to be transferred. If the family doctor makes a personal inquiry, thank him profusely for the care he's provided, give specific examples, and tell him that you think you've found a doctor who is a better fit for your health care needs in this stage of your life. Blame it on hormones or middle age. Something that kindly says, "Doctor, really, it's not you, it's me."

    The conversation may not even occur. If you weren't feeling like the doctor was responsive during visits, chances are that he may well not notice when a year goes by and you haven't been in to see him.

    Finally, doctors are grown-ups too, and they know that patients have the right and prerogative to see whomever they wish for health care concerns.

    I'm glad you found someone who is a better fit for you, and without a lot of shopping around. You really needn't feel bad about making a change. When you buy a car, do you exclusively walk into a single dealership and buy a car, no questions asked, or do you shop around? Do you buy groceries only from a single outlet, never stopping at a farmer's market, or checking out a good sale with a competitor?

    You've only got one body. You really have a responsibility to yourself and your family to make sure that you're getting the best care possible.

  2. Great advice, Susanne. Kelly, this topic arose yesterday as I waited on hold for 20 minutes at my doctor's office (listening to a recording about the wonders of Saturday and evening appointment options). In my case, I adore the woman who provides my medical care, but I HATE her office's phone system (large, popular practice with a trillion patients who've accumulated over the decades). Mine wasn't an emergency, but I kept thinking, "Shoot, what if I were a new mother with a sick baby? Would I have to go to the emergency room for something minor, just because I couldn't get through the phone system?" We might want to mention this on the Dish, too, because there are other issues around this. But great question, and I agree with Susanne, but I also totally understand the sheepish feeling you're experiencing at not wanting to hurt your first doc's feelings.

  3. Good points, Doni... and I totally understand the notion of feeling like a cheater. I've had those issues with hair stylists and nail techs. It is definitely hard to find a comfortable way to say, "I want service that is different/better/friendlier/more comfortable/faster/ than what you provide."

  4. I still feel bad that I have new health care providers - and I moved out of town!

    It is a mixed blessing the my new doctor looks like she was in the senior picture section of last years local high school year book.

    Suzanne is right I feel the same way about hair sytlist.

  5. Congratulations on finding a doc who's a better fit for you.

    I like to look at these kind of break-ups like this: "My former (insert professional title here) is lucky to be done with me - I'm sure he'll be happier dealing with easier-to-please clients."

  6. do it like a grown up. Call the nurse and ask for them to transfer your records to your new guy and then plan your life so you never run into your old dr. like I said, be a grown up

  7. You're the patient! You should be the one taking charge. Don't worry about a doctor's feelings. Really. They have patients seeking second opinions all the time. At the very least they should want you to seek a second opinion to verify their own diagnostics. Because I did not seek a second opinion when I really should have many years ago I underwent draconian procedures that never should have been done. I now take charge! This may sound bossy, but oh well. I do hope your back gets better.

  8. I like the hormone angle. I feel as if I always need a reason to do what I think is best.

  9. Our current doctor is in the same building as a doctor we went to years ago, and the old doctor didn't seem to notice when we stopped coming. And we haven't gotten any strange looks in the doctors' office since we've been back.

    Of course, if your regular doctor reads your blog he knows your intentions already.

  10. As patients, we are also consumers. However, doctor care is much more important than finding the best prices and service compared to buying food,etc. We are talking about healthcare, and our bodies and our future. It is our choice to find the best medical practioner to meet our needs. We have that right. We are not married to our doctors or any "professionals". As comsumers, we have the right to choose!

    Call your "old" office and ask for your records to be transferred to the new one. No explainations should be needed...

  11. All of the comments to date are right on target. And if you need a conscience salver (though you really don't at all....) ask yourself how much consideration is given to patients when a doctor leaves a group practice, moves away, etc. It's usually just a nice letter after the fact saying..."I've moved on and my office will be glad to transfer your records anywhere you like." And those letters are from the docs who care. If queried when changing from one professional to another (and I agree that the chances are slim you'll ever be asked), I'd fall back on a line that's sometimes used when turning down applicants for a position -- "I appreciate all the care I've received from you in the past but _______ is a better match for my needs right now." Period.
    It's your body and it's great that you have someone you trust better now to help you look after it.

  12. And always get second opinions....please! Even third opinions. I suggest reading Coronary if you haven't already. I don't know Dr Moon, but hear he is enjoying golfing and the good life paid for by his trusted patients.

  13. I think you don't need to worry about how to handle it ... your old doctor has probably read this by now!
    (Just let their receptionist know who to send the records to!)

  14. Remember the Godfather. This is business, not personal.

  15. If you don't want to call your old Dr's office (at the risk of feeling the need to over explain yourself) you can always complete a form at the new Dr's office and have them fax the request over. You could then send a lovely "thank you" note to the old Dr. for the prior years of care.
    Done, over, moved on...and without any opportunity to say the wrong thing and with the heady power of putting your own needs first.

  16. Kelly, you need to send a fax or letter stating you want your records transfer to who and where and then sign. Privacy and legal issue.

    Saves a phone call, too!