How to Make a Smooth Transition to a New Doctor

When you're changing doctors, it's important to consider both parts of making the change:

  • Leaving the old doctor
  • Getting started with the new doctor

Once you've decided you have valid reasons for changing doctors, you'll want to be sure to do it the right way. If you don't, you may be left out in the cold when it comes to finding a new provider to meet your needs.

Medical worker holding a patient's chart
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Before You Leave a Doctor

To make the transition from your old doctor to your new doctor go smoothly, you'll want to take several steps.

Find a New Doctor First

If finding a new doctor is your choice, not mandatory, then before you leave you need to make sure you can get in with a new doctor. You may not be able to because:

  • Some doctors don't take new patients
  • Some won't take Medicaid patients
  • Specialists are booked months in advance

You'll need to do your due diligence to identify your new doctor and set an introductory appointment before you leave the old one behind.

Have a Final Visit

Schedule one last visit with the doctor you're leaving so you can:

  • Ask for a status report on current and recurring health conditions. (Take notes, and take a second person with you, if possible.)
  • Discuss your reasons for leaving, if you can and want to. Just don't burn any bridges—the medical community is small, even in large cities. Angering your old doctor might make it difficult to find a new one.
  • Get copies of all medical records for the past several years, especially those relating to current or chronic problems, so your new doctor has access to notes, test results, and other useful information. (Ask whether your new doctor's office will take care of this. Many do.)

Getting Your Medical Records

You have a legal right to your medical record under HIPAA federal government policies. However, each state has its own laws about how to make formal requests and how that request must be carried out. You'll most likely need to:

  • Make the request in writing
  • Pay for copies
  • Give them time to comply

If your old doctor uses an electronic medical record-keeping system (EMR) and the new one doesn't, or uses a very different system, it may alter the process.

Do I Have to Say Why I'm Leaving?

No, you don't need to tell your old doctor why you're leaving their practice.

However, if you're leaving because you don't have a choice (such as insurance plan changes), then it's nice to let them know they haven't done something wrong that made you leave.

If leaving is your choice, and your reasons include problems with the doctor, that would be valuable information for them to have, too. The conversation may be difficult, but if you have it in you to do so, share your reasons with the doctor.

Alternatively, you can also write them a letter or email. This may be the best option if you're angry or upset about things.

You may find it's cathartic to tell them, and doing so may help the doctor adjust their practice to better serve future patients. You may also find out the problem is simply a misunderstanding.

Visiting Your New Doctor

Assuming you've done your due diligence and have found the Dr. Right to replace the one you're leaving, you can take some steps to ensure a good relationship with your new doctor.

Make an Introductory Appointment

Begin by making an appointment just to get to know the new doctor, and perhaps to have a physical. You may want to do this before you leave the former doctor, if possible.

Visiting the new doctor when you have a few minutes to talk generally is a much better way to start a new relationship than when you're sick or hurt and must deal with those problems instead of your general health.

Make Copies of Your Medical Record

It's good practice to keep copies of all your medical records. Therefore, make a second set of copies so you can keep one and give the other to the new doctor.

If possible, provide the copies to your new doctor before your visit. If they have time, they may review them before your appointment, which can help it go better.

Be Prepared With Questions

Write down a master list of questions to discuss with your new doctor.

If you decide to tell them why you left your old doctor, know that you're providing information about your expectations for this new relationship.

Discuss these points respectfully and politely so you can establish a professional, trustful relationship.

Be a Good Patient

Once you're with a new doctor, remember you need to invest as much in your health and the relationship as your new doctor does.

Yes, they're supposed to fix your health problems—but they can do that better if you make healthy life choices and follow their instructions when problems arise.

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  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Your rights under HIPPA. Health Information Privacy. Updated January 31, 2020.