Friday, November 19, 2010

What do I do if I don't like the way my primary care doctor is treating my problem?

Imagine you've had abdominal pain for 3 months. You've seen your primary care doctor and they ordered an ultrasound and it didn't show anything. Your doctor wants to do a CT scan but hasn't gotten approval from your insurance yet and you think he only wanted to do it to make you happy. Meanwhile you're in pain because your doctor has given you pain medication that isn't working. You think you need to see a GI doctor but your doctor doesn't think so. You don't know if you trust what your doctor is saying anyway and you don't think he believes you're in pain.

So what do you do?

Do you go to the emergency department? Why not, they'll do a CT scan and give me lots of pain medication and then I can see the GI doctor and maybe even a surgeon and maybe even get surgery done today! There's the answer, right?


If you show up to the emergency department with a chronic problem we aren't likely to solve it. You've had testing done, you've gotten treatment from your primary, we're likely to send you back to your primary. If you have a problem that we think is an acute problem (meaning urgent) then you may get a CT scan. The job of the emergency department is to rule out and treat the life threatening and urgent problems and all other problems get sent back to someone else for followup. We will make sure you don't have an acute or urgent problem but once we have ruled out the bad stuff we will send you back to your primary care provider for followup.

If you don't like the care you are getting from your primary care provider you have a few options. First, you should talk to your doctor. Ask them to explain their throught process to you. Often patients aren't satisfied because they don't understand the treatment they are getting.

If you are still not satisfied then you can ask to see someone else in the practice if you go to a group practice. Be aware that some doctors will be hesitant to mess with someone else's patient so if you really don't like your primary you should make it clear that you want to switch doctors and see the partner.

If you still don't like what you are being told then you can find a new primary care prvider. Your local medical society may be an option to help with this as well.

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