8 Signs You Need a New Doctor

What makes a good doctor-patient relationship? Many people find this a difficult question to answer. Luckily, Liesa Harte, MD, has some ideas: “A good doctor gives you what you need while also giving you what you want,” says the functional medicine and age management physician at Elite Care in Austin, Texas.

She continues, "Doctors vary in personality, personal style, and office amenities, and some patients judge their doctors based on these things." However, there are more effective ways to determine if your MD is meeting your needs: "You should be evaluating your doctor’s care based on their training, the level of trust they instill, and whether or not their medical philosophy and style of care is in line with yours."

8 Warning Signs

A healthy doctor-patient relationship is based on trust, confidence, and mutual respect, but it’s also a matter of good customer service. The following red flags are signs that one or more of these elements are missing from your healthcare—and that it may be time to find a new doctor:

  1. You don’t have confidence in your doctor’s advice. "If your doctor routinely misses the mark or you leave his office frustrated and confused, it may be time to find a doctor who’s a better listener and diagnostician, has more time, and is able to adapt his care style to your care preferences," says Harte.
  2. You have repeat performance issues. If your doctor doesn’t remember you and your medical history from one visit to the next, or she dispenses the same advice at every visit, that’s a problem. Charting, note-taking, and chart review are essential parts of every medical appointment. Your doctor should go over your history and previous care plans before she sees you. If she doesn’t, she’s not only wasting your time, she may be missing crucial information about your health.
  3. You have communication problems. An exchange of information between doctor and patient is essential for high quality, customized healthcare. Both you and your doctor should be active participants in your healthcare conversation, but unfortunately many doctors aren’t great listeners: "Studies show doctors typically interrupt patients within 17 seconds of their conversation," Harte says. "I like what Dr. William Osler said a hundred years ago: 'Listen to your patients—they're telling you what's wrong.' It's our job to translate that into a diagnosis and treatment. If you [the doctor] won't take time to listen, you'll miss vital information that may lead to a correct diagnosis."

    On a related note, if you’re asking reasonable questions and your doctor seems irritated or unwilling to provide answers, that’s also a red flag. "Doctors are educators and have information patients need." Harte says. However, "Some doctors don't enjoy educating. They prefer to just tell you what to do and go on to their next patient. If you don't leave your doctor visits more knowledgeable every time, find another doctor."

    For instance, if your doctor orders tests and doles out diagnoses and prescriptions but doesn’t explain why, she’s not doing her job. Providing complete information at a level her patient understands is an essential part of patient care. Harte says, "It’s the patient’s job to ask questions that give the doctor clues about his level of understanding. It’s the doctor’s job to answer those questions completely."
  4. Your wait is too long. Doctors get busy and patients sometimes require more time than they anticipate, but that doesn’t mean you should be kept waiting for more than a short period of time. If you’re routinely kept waiting for your scheduled appointment, that’s a sign your doctor considers her time more valuable than yours. "It comes down to respect,” Harte says. “We know we need more time in our schedule for unexpected delays, but respect for our patients means we allow for that time in our schedules."
  5. Your doctor can’t give you his or her full attention. Modern medicine, heavy patient loads, and complicated insurance requirements mean that most doctors see far too many patients each day, and each patient gets very little individual attention. It gets worse if your doctor is interrupted to take phone calls or check other patients during your scheduled appointment. Make sure you schedule enough time to discuss all your medical concerns, and let your doctor know if you feel not getting her full attention.
  6. Your doctor is rude. The doctor-patient relationship is all about customer service. The patient is the customer who hires a doctor to take care of his health. If you hire a contractor or housekeeper and they’re rude to you, you’d fire them. If your doctor or members of his or her staff are impolite, condescending, or rude, hire someone else.
  7. You have a personality conflict. Doctors are trained—and expected—to provide compassionate, skilled care to every patient. But they’re human, and in the unlikely case that you and your MD simply don’t get along, this could conceivably translate into your doctor spending less time with you, not listening to you, or not advocating for you. In short, you could receive substandard care.

    Alternatively, maybe your doctor likes you fine, but you’re not crazy about him. In this case, you might not confide all the health details he needs, or you might be tempted to skip needed appointments. If your medical visits have you hitting the "dislike" button, it’s time to find a new doctor.
  8. Your doctor’s fees are too high. Healthcare prices can vary greatly from office to office and doctor to doctor. If you don’t like the prices your doctor charges, find one that’s more affordable. Check with your insurance plan for references and doctors covered under your policy prior to appointments.

How to Find the Right Doctor

Follow these four tips in order to find a physician who best meets your needs:

  1. Ask friends and family for recommendations.
  2. Talk to your insurance company about doctors covered under your plan.
  3. Make sure your prospective doctor is fully accredited and board-certified (that ensures they’re specially trained and up-to-date).
  4. Make an appointment for a meet and greet to see if you and your doctor are a good match.

Liesa Harte, M.D., reviewed this article.


Liesa Harte, M.D. Interview March 10, 2015.