Firing Your Doctor

Doctors are service providers.

Remember this discussion, from about 3 weeks ago? It got some interesting comments and dialogue going, and people had opinions across the board.  You can read through it for reader feedback, but essentially my position was that when I visit a doctor, I expect some semblance of customer service. After all, a doctor – in my view – is a service provider like a waitress, plumber, electrician, etc.  We pay, and we expect service in return. My post illustrated an example of questionable customer service I received from a doctor I had recently visited.

Keeping that prior discussion in mind, you may not be surprised that I was happy to come across this article from US News detailing when you should replace your doctor.  I like the thinking! Again, as service providers, their job is to help you and treat you like a customer. Since you’re a customer, you should be listened to and treated with at least a basic minimum level of respect.

Here are the article’s 9 signs of when it’s time to move on from your current doctor:

  1. You don’t mesh
  2. He doesn’t respect your time
  3. He keeps you in the dark
  4. He doesn’t listen
  5. The office staff is unprofessional
  6. You don’t feel comfortable with him, or wonder about his competence
  7. He doesn’t coordinate with other doctors
  8. He’s unreachable
  9. He’s rude or condescending

All good reasons to move on. Actually, they used the phrase “fire your doctor”, which is really what you’d be doing.

What’s interesting about this list is that many of these could be applied to other service providers. These could be a checklist for evaluating a plumber. Or, maybe a mover. Perhaps even a lawyer.

I’ve experienced all of these at one point or another. I’ve also dealt with doctors that were great, and didn’t fail on any of the factors above, or maybe just one.

Bottom line is that when we are spending our money, we have the right to expect at least the most basic service. The same rules apply to doctors or any of the aforementioned professions. Sure, you may have fewer alternatives to your current doctor as opposed to the wide selection of choices for other professional needs. However, it doesn’t change the notion that you’re the customer. A well meaning customer should always be treated with at least a minimum level of decency, right?

If you’re spending money, and if service is horrific, don’t just take it. Rather, take action!

The article makes great points about how one’s health could actually be affected by some of these issues. It’s actually moreimportant for a doctor to provide good customer service, as the downside to it could be far worse than it would be with those other service providers. In particular, competence is extremely important!

My Questions for You:

What do you think of this list?  Have you ever experienced any of these issues?

Have you ever flat out fired a doctor for such reasons, and moved on to another one?

Note: I really do like and value doctors, despite these last 2 doctor-related posts. It’s the bad apples and arrogant/entitled ones that are just unbelievable. Good doctors out there, no offense!


  1. Sarah says

    I fired a specialist my primary doctor referred me to, the specialist was rude, and brought up starvation as a valid way to lose weight ( He was an endocrinologist I was sent to for my thyroid issues.) Not only did I refuse to go back, I told my Primary Care Doctor exactly why I refused to go back! I ended up finding another specialist whom is awesome.

    • Squirrelers says

      Sarah – there you go! Staying passive and not asserting your rights as a paying customer, just because you’re dealing with a physician, doesn’t get people anywhere in my opinion. Your approach, on the contrary, was smart – you held your ground, communicated the issue, and found a better specialist who you like. Good for you!

  2. says

    I’ve never had to fire a doctor. Guess I’ve been lucky! I definitely would look into finding another if I wasn’t totally satisfied with mine. It’s too important to accept anything less.

    • Squirrelers says

      No Debt MBA – yes, it’s too important to accept less. Health has to be up there at or near the top of the list.

  3. says

    Because most of us have health insurance, we often forget there is a transaction involved and that we are, as you said, paying for a service. If the service is poor, we should seek another provider.

    Maybe there should be a tip jar, so you can drop in a few pennies as you leave like some people do to a bad waiter/waitress.

    • Squirrelers says

      Brave New Life – LOL…a tip jar! If physicans worked on tips, it would be a totally different ballgame!

  4. says

    A few years ago I was having some skin rash problems. My primary doctor referred me to a dermatologist. The first time I was there, he didn’t even address the rash, but instead went ahead and removed a mole without even really discussing it with me. The rash issue was persistant and I never felt comfortable with the prognosis or treatment plan, but he wouldn’t budge. I would be escorted into an exam room, told to take my shirt off, then made to wait upwards of 20-30 minutes. The final straw came when one time I was waiting forever so I put my shirt back on, only to get admonished by the doctor for having my shirt on when they came in….half an hour later. I ended up leaving that doctor and I also left my primary care doctor as I was that pissed that he made such a bad referral.

    • Squirrelers says

      Money Beagle – that’s some poor service you got. Clearly, there were communication issues on the doctor’s part. That’s totally a situation worthy of leaving.

  5. says

    I too have been lucky not to have fired a doctor, but then again, I haven’t seen one for anything other than unexpected problems like having my appendix out 15 years ago. I suppose it is time for a check-up, huh?

    • Squirrelers says

      Cashflowmantra – you’re lucky to have such great health! Of course, we should all get checkups – an annual physical could be a great idea, as often we don’t even have any idea what might be lurking, even though we feel healthy. Important to do as we get older.

  6. says

    I once got into a screaming match with a doctor (who wasn’t my personal physician) about how crappy they are at customer service. She made all these excuses as to why doctors can’t be bothered with customer service like other professional service providers. I still don’t buy the excuses. Even if the insurance company does send you checks, know that it is I who instruct them to do so.

    • Squirrelers says

      Shawanda – that person said that doctors can’t be bothered with customer service? Hmmm. Without the customers, there would be no business – insurance companies or not.

  7. says

    Although I never fired a doctor, I spend a great deal of time surrounding myself with the best professionals I can.. This is also true of the people I deal with whether customer service or others. I normally I do not put up with less than reasonable service, response or attitude. I go further than most! About 20+ years ago, I needed an operation. I was referred to a great specialist (doctor’s doctor). In preparation for the operation, I asked a bunch of questions. One of which was what hospitals he had privileges. His answer was 4 local hospitals. I chose the one that I knew gave the best care. Some may call me a control freak, but surgery is bad enough, I wanted good care after the surgery. This could be a metaphor for life. Take control, you will like the results!

    • Squirrelers says

      Krantcents – wise words indeed. Surrounding yourself with the best professionals is smart, as is being active and taking control rather than being passive. I agree!

  8. says

    Although I’ve not had to fire our primary care physician, there are have been specialists that I’ve not cared to go back to. Maybe because they were specialist they had that extra dose of arrogance.

  9. says

    I changed my PCP a few years ago because I just couldn’t click with her. I love my new doctor.

    It’s important to feel comfortable with any of your service providers. Life’s too short to be unhappy with someone you’re paying.

  10. says

    Let’s start with the comment that most of my professional life has been spent in healthcare, both as a medical receptionist and now in administrative positions at a managed care organization.
    Never be afraid to fire your doctor. Never. If its just because you don’t click, then switch and don’t worry about it. If its because their front desk/office staff are rude, complain to the doctor. Write them a letter and tell them why you’re leaving.
    If you don’t like a specialist your PCP referred you to, tell you PCP. Sometimes MDs don’t personally know the physician they referred you to. Let them know it was a bad deal and ask for a new referral. If they refuse, find yourself a new PCP.
    If you are having consistent problems with an MD, whether they won’t listen to you, don’t treat your problems, insult you, tell you you’re lying (this happened to a friend of mine), make assumptions about your health behaviors due to race, etc, COMPLAIN TO YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY.
    In managed care (Kaiser Permanente is the most famous, not who I work for), the company is also the MDs employer. The MD who kept accusing my friend of lying got fired due to complaints from her and others.
    If you have a “regular” insurance company, like the Blues, if they get enough complaints from customers (and you are definitely their customer) they won’t contract with the doctor again when the opportunity comes up. Complaints from patients to the insurance company can also trigger investigations and possibly the loss of a physicians credentialing.

    As I said at the beginning, you have to decide the severity. Not clicking is just a personality thing, no need to do anything but switch. Inadequate care is a danger to you and all their patients- so tell someone who can do something about it.

  11. Danielle says

    I showed up for a Dr.’s appt. 15 minutes early. They roomed me immediately, but then they left me sitting there for 90 minutes!! No one came in to say what was going on and I needed to pick my child up from daycare. So I walked out of the room and I couldn’t find anyone; not even the receptionist! So I stood in the waiting area and called the front desk from my cell phone and eventually the receptionist showed up. I explained that I didn’t have time to wait any longer and that the Dr. never showed up!

    I did receive a call from the Dr. that evening, but I told her that her services were no longer necessary and that I would find a new clinic. I was polite, but it was an effort!

  12. Rene Lotempio says

    You are actually right, I cannot agree all the signs that you have said here but some of which is true. I will probably fire my doctor if he is not responsible to me of what am really need when I got sick.

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