When is it time to breakup with your healthcare provider?

For those of us who are unpaid family caregivers, we are often at the doctor’s office more than the average person. It’s very important that we trust our providers and are comfortable with them. This doesn’t just include the provider of the person we are caring for, but also our own individual provider if they are not the same person.

For example, my primary care provider is a different physician than the person who participates in Mark’s medical care. I absolutely adore Mark’s primary care physician, but I prefer a female provider and feel like her philosophies regarding health and wellness align with mine.

I often meet family caregivers who are unhappy with their current providers either for themselves or the person that they are caring for.

So, how do you know when you should find a new healthcare provider?

  • Your provider should always respect your individual values, beliefs, and customs that are important to you and your culture.
  • Your provider should listen to you and your concerns. While I understand all providers are very busy these days, it is still important that they take the time to listen to your concerns and address them appropriately.

If you have a provider that is talking over you, disregarding concerns that you have, or pretending they know everything, it might be time to move on.

When I mentor nurse practitioner students, I always remind them that they will never know everything.

For example, I can see 100 patients who have a similar disease with similar symptoms, but maybe one out of 100 will have a sign or symptom that I have never seen before within a specific disease process.

 We are individual people, with individual responses to medications, health issues, and everyday stressors, so it’s very important that I look at the whole person and not just a diagnosis or a symptom.

I have always said that any provider that thinks they know everything is a dangerous healthcare provider.

If you feel uncomfortable around the provider, for instance, you leave the appointment feeling talked down to, disrespected, or just plain uncomfortable, trust your gut! It is so important for both a caregiver and a healthcare consumer to feel comfortable with the person who is participating in your medical care.

Another time you might want to change healthcare providers is when you find it’s no longer a good logistical fit.

For example, if your provider is far away from home, if it’s difficult to get yourself or the person you’re caring for to and from appointments, even something the amount of time you have to wait prior to your appointment, maybe things to consider.

As a caregiver, our time is precious, so if I make a 4 PM appointment, and I know I’m not going to get into that appointment until 530, as much as I might like that physician it’s just not going to be a good fit for everything I have to juggle.

Another consideration is if the provider is not willing or able to discuss options with you regarding certain treatments or medications, or goals of care. As a provider, I can tell you that we all have our own opinions, but it is not necessarily my job to give you my opinion, it is my job to educate you with all of the information I have available and help you to make the choice that best fits your family and your situation.

One of the things that I feel very comfortable doing with any physician that is in Mark’s treatment team or providing any care to me is reviewing the BRAND question:

  • Benefits-What are the benefits of this treatment?
  • Risks-What are the risks of this treatment?
  • Alternatives-What is the alternative to this treatment?
  • Nothing-What if we do nothing?
  • Decision-Make your decision.

So, as an example, Mark had an increase in his cholesterol a few years ago, and his physician wanted to put him on a statin. I did not feel his cholesterol was elevated enough to warrant a statement with the risks and side effects that come with that medication, so I reviewed the brand question with the physician and we agreed upon dietary changes and a recheck of his cholesterol in 6 months.

That was 3 years ago. Mark now has ideal cholesterol and recently had a cardiac catheterization that revealed his heart is “clean as a whistle” So we were able to resolve a medical issue with a plan that aligned more with our goals and values and Mark’s physician was agreeable and everyone was happy with the outcome.

So if you want to change providers, how do you go about it?

If you feel comfortable having a discussion with the physician you are choosing to leave, you can definitely either send their office an email or speak with the physician directly explaining why you’re choosing a new physician. But to be honest, that can be very uncomfortable if you don’t have a good relationship with the physician.

So finding a new physician and just not booking any more appointments with the physician you’re leaving is often a less stressful way to make that move.

However, I do think it’s best practice to let the physician know why you are leaving and give them an opportunity to either change the way that they work with you or take it as a learning opportunity.

Where should you look for a new provider if you’re not comfortable with your current provider?

I know I sound like a broken record with recommending support groups, but this is an amazing place if you have a specific disease process that you are dealing with for yourself or the person you’re caring for.

Often these groups know the providers that are the most open to working together as a team to help you and the person you’re caring for have the best health and quality of life.

If you are unable to physically attend a support group, going to Google and Google your specific diagnosis and finding a local online support group might be a better way to find the information you need to make an educated decision on the next healthcare provider you use.

As always caregivers thank you for all that you do and please feel free to reach out to me with any questions.

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