Living with Chronic Pain
9 Tips for a Smooth Transition to a New Doctor or Specialist
Once a decision is made to obtain a new doctor or specialist, certain steps need to be taken to establish appropriate health care and help the first appointment go smoothly. Nine tips for a smooth transition to a new doctor or specialist include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Find a new doctor. Prior to changing doctors, be sure to identify a new one. Research should be completed to ensure the doctor is accepting new patients, as well as the individuals’ insurance. An introductory appointment should also be scheduled with a new physician before leaving the current one. Oftentimes, specialists are booked in advance; therefore, appointments should be made as soon as possible.
- Be sure the provider accepts insurance. Prior to making the appointment, confirm the insurance plan is accepted. This information may be found online or by calling the office. Finding out if a provider accepts a given insurance plan can help prevent delays and unexpected costs. This is especially important for individuals who reside in Canada who may be accessing services that are not covered under the provincial or territorial health system.
- Have a final visit. One last appointment should be scheduled with the current physician. Ask for a report containing current and past health conditions. A copy of all medical records for the past few years, especially pertaining to current or chronic issues, should be obtained. It is okay to discuss the reason for leaving, but not out of anger.
- Transfer medical records. When making an appointment with a new primary care physician or specialist, it is important they have access to relevant medical records. This not only provides necessary information concerning the individual’s health, but also prevents duplication of tests or procedures, saving individuals time and money. Some providers are able to transfer medical records electronically. For others, a paper copy may need to be obtained and taken to the new doctor. If possible, a new doctor should have medical records prior to the first visit.
- Ensure all necessary items have been obtained. If the specialist or doctor requests medical records, test results, or diagnostic items, such as x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) reports, individuals should call to confirm they have arrived prior to the scheduled appointment. Addressing any missing items before the appointment can make time with the physician more productive.
- Inform the office of any special accommodations needed. If special accommodations are needed, such as an interpreter, translator, or handicap parking accessibility, notify the office ahead of time, so arrangements can be made. This also helps the appointment go smoothly, while maximizing quality time with the physician.
- Have contact information of other providers available. Specialists or new doctors may need the name and contact information of all current healthcare providers in order to reach out and coordinate care if needed. Having the name, address, and phone number of the individual’s preferred pharmacy available can also make writing and filling prescriptions easier and faster.
- Prepare for travel to the new office. Individuals should decide and make preparation on how they will get to the appointment. This may include verifying the driving route, confirming parking information, or identifying public transportation options.
- Arrive early. It is always good practice to arrive early to any doctor’s appointment, but this is especially true for a new provider. Individuals should plan to arrive 20 minutes prior to the appointment time. Typically, forms and paperwork must be completed, insurance cards will need to be copied, and copays will be due.