Getting an appointment to see one’s primary care physician is sometimes like playing a game of whack-a-mole. It is not uncommon for a physician to have a panel of up to 3000 patients, many of whom need to see her on any given day. This makes it difficult to get an appointment for an acute problem. Despite the challenge of getting in to be seen, one should think carefully before choosing to doctor-hop. Doctor-hopping is the act of accepting an appointment from any physician who has openings in her schedule. This may be at another physician office or an urgent care. Obviously, emergent conditions require urgent interventions. But consider the ramifications for other concerns.
Treating with Incomplete Information
Every time you visit a new healthcare provider, you are expected to share your health history as there will be no time to get your records from your usual physician. If you share incomplete details, you run the risk of getting inadequate care or care that compromises your health. Imagine if you are on a treatment plan that you have forgotten to disclose to this new healthcare provider. If he advocates a plan of care that is contrary to your usual care, you can suffer adverse effects. If you must see a new healthcare provider, be sure to take your current medication list as well as a record of all current diagnoses and treatments.
Poor Continuity of Care
Each healthcare appointment generates paperwork or at least an electronic health record. Unless you have given permission for him to do so, the physician you are seeing will not send your records to your primary care physician. Your primary care physician will not know to update your chart with your new diagnoses, medications, and studies ordered. This information will most likely be pertinent to your continued care. To ensure continuity of care, give permission for the healthcare provider to send his notes to your usual provider. Take all medications and a summary of your care to your usual provider so that your chart can be updated.
Duplication of Effort
It is not uncommon for different healthcare providers to order the same set of labs and imaging studies for one patient, unbeknownst to each other. This results in unnecessary work, duplicated treatments, wasted time and increased costs. Obviously, this may be necessary, if for example, you are being monitored or treated over a period of time for certain condition. However, for best results in the most efficient manner, ask the healthcare provider for details of the treatment plan. Let him know what was previously done and what the results were.
Insurance companies do not wish to pay for duplicated services. Therefore, if they have already paid for your lab work that was ordered by your primary care physician, they are unlikely to pay for a duplicate set of labs a few days later for the same health condition. You may have to bear the cost of studies that are not covered by your insurance company. You may also have to pay for the healthcare provider’s visit if you also choose someone outside of your health insurance network. It is always a good idea to choose saving your health over saving money. However, sometimes you can do both. If you are acutely ill and cannot get in to see your regular physician, try finding one in your network first. Sometimes paying cash will net you a smaller bill than if you allow your insurance company to get involved. It is important to know your health history and your current treatments so you can have a say in what is ordered on your behalf. If you must doctor-hop, do so with knowledge.