Proper etiquette for switching doctors within a practice
August 4, 2021 7:47 AM   Subscribe

My wife is not happy with her orthopedist (we're in the US). It's nothing horrible – he just isn't very attentive or helpful, and she doesn't want to go back to him. Her doctor is part of a medical practice with five other orthopedists in the group. Can we reasonably ask the receptionist for an appointment with one of the other doctors in the practice?

I guess we can just call the office and ask, but I don't know if that would be considered poor form. If this is not a good idea, should we ask for a formal referral to a doctor from outside the practice, or should we just call another provider ourselves (minus the referral)?
posted by alex1965 to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
Best answer: Absolutely you can. I've done exactly this for another type of specialist - I just didn't jive with the one I was originally "assigned" to when I first called the practice. After a lackluster appointment, I asked the receptionist for an appt with another doc in the practice and said I wanted another perspective. It was no big deal, and easy since the records were already in the practice.
posted by writermcwriterson at 7:57 AM on August 4, 2021 [7 favorites]

You can totally do this. I switched oncologists within a practice even though I was initially told it wasn't normally allowed. I was super nervous and even wrote an Ask about it. But I just set up an appointment with the doc I wanted for a second opinion and asked him if he'd take over my care. It turned out not to be a big deal at all. And really, it's awful to have a doc you don't like - you don't need a "good reason" to change.
posted by FencingGal at 8:11 AM on August 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

When my first child was born, I wasn't thrilled with the pediatrician I'd chosen, but I didn't really think there was anything to do about it. Then, while I was pregnant with my second, I had to bring my first in for a sick visit and got a different pedi that day. I loved her! I told her I wished I'd chosen her instead, and she looked at me like I was nuts and said, "So switch! It happens all the time. Right now there's probably someone switching from me to your doctor!" So I did and we've been with her for 20+ years now.
Do it!
posted by wisekaren at 8:16 AM on August 4, 2021 [9 favorites]

Especially in a practice, people switch doctors all the time, for all sorts of reasons. And having a patient with one doctor can help the office itself in already having all the paperwork, etc. at-hand to have that initial appointment at the ready. Go forth and switch practitioners!
posted by xingcat at 8:24 AM on August 4, 2021

It’s as simple as telling the front desk, or calling in to say, that you’d like to see a different doctor from now on. And then maybe confirming with the second doc that you’re looking for ABC from them. You won’t offend. You won’t even hurt the first doctor’s income much if profit sharing is structured like a typical ortho practice.
posted by michaelh at 8:24 AM on August 4, 2021

Agree that it's fine to switch. And it's also fine to switch from a good doctor to a doctor that's a better fit. Our first pediatrician was rather intense, which stressed us; we switched to another doctor in the practice who had a more relaxed manner and frequently explained why our concerns really weren't anything to worry about, which we found reassuring. I could definitely imagine parents who switched the other way and told people that they felt better with a doctor who they thought was more thorough and took their concerns more seriously.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:40 AM on August 4, 2021

Best answer: From a doctor's perspective: Yes, please switch! People do this all the time. It's no skin off anyone's nose* and it's really important that you trust the person who is going to be cutting into you.

* Technically, seeing another person in the same practice means that Ortho #2 will bill a follow-up visit rather than a more lucrative new visit. So if the doctor or practice gives you grief about this, it's a sign they may care more about profits than patients.
posted by basalganglia at 9:00 AM on August 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

At my old OBGYN clinic they had a policy that we could not pick which doctor to see of the four that shared the practice. If your clinic has policies like that, you may not be able to switch. I've never seen anything like it in other practices so odds are low, but thought I'd mention.
posted by MiraK at 9:48 AM on August 4, 2021

Primary care doctor here: Go ahead and ask to switch! We understand that individual practice styles are not always a great fit for specific people and that there's really no good way to know until you meet someone.

Some practices do discourage or limit switching, although mostly this is either due to the other doctors' panels being full (less of an issue with a specialist like orthopedics than with primary care) or the patient has changed providers several times and is known to be chronically unhappy and/or has specific behavior challenges like being inappropriate with providers of a certain gender. This doesn't sound like it applies to your wife. The primary care practice where I work typically allows 2 changes of primary care provider (so a total of 3 doctors) before we tell people that they either need to stick with one of the 3 doctors they've met or find a new practice.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:53 AM on August 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

I think the only "poor form" would involve being impolite at the receptionist when making the next appointment with a new doctor.

If the practice itself doesn't allow switching doctors...get a new clinic if at all possible. (Within bounds of US healthcare being...what it is.)
posted by Drastic at 9:55 AM on August 4, 2021

I have had a doctor proactively switch me to another doctor in their practice. He said that the other doctor has more experience with what ailed me, and he said that the other doctor was more likely to be on time (I was expressing my disatisfaction with the hour wait when I had called 15 minutes before my appointment to see if they were running on time and I asked if there was any emergency that had come up today. THe response was no and on time.) Turns out it was also a much better personality fit. Been with new doctor for 20+ years now. She is terrific.
posted by AugustWest at 9:58 AM on August 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

People switch all the time for any reason. If you really want an out, ask for a female physician. They won't say anything.
posted by firstdaffodils at 10:25 AM on August 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Look at it this way - they would rather you switch within the practice than leave entirely.
posted by radioamy at 11:44 AM on August 4, 2021

You aren't satisfied with the service you (or your insurance) is paying for. Switching to another provider is fine, even within the same practice. If the previous doctor gets salty that's a "them" problem, not a "you" problem. More likely than not they won't even notice or care if they do.
posted by Aleyn at 6:17 PM on August 4, 2021

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