There are many reasons you might be trying to switch your primary care provider (PCP). Some common reasons to switch your primary care provider may include:
- You’re moving away
- Your office is inconvenient to get to
- Your primary care provider is retiring or moving to a new practice
- You outgrew your pediatrician
- You want a different type of PCP
- Or you simply don’t like your PCP
Your PCP is really important. They are the provider you usually go to first before any other doctor, and they are the ones who will likely be with you the longest on your health journey. Because they are such an integral part of your health, there’s no shame in switching your PCP if you don’t feel like they are doing a good job. If it seems like they aren’t listening to you or taking your health concerns seriously, then it may be time for a change. It’s also important to remember when switching PCPs that you don’t owe them an explanation and shouldn’t worry about offending them. PCPs want the patient-provider relationship to feel right just as much as you do. Here are a couple of important steps to take when switching a primary care provider.
1. Find a new PCP before leaving your old one.
One important thing to remember when switching providers is that it could take time to find a new one. Some providers may not be accepting new patients (you can find this out on their website or by giving their office a call), or they may not be able to get you in within a reasonable time frame. Therefore, it’s best to ensure you have found a new PCP before leaving your old PCP behind. You don’t want to be left high and dry if you get sick or need a referral before finding a new provider.
2. Confirm your insurance covers your new PCP.
This step is essential depending on the type of insurance plan you have. Some plans are more flexible, while others may require you to have a PCP (which can be one reason to find a new PCP before leaving your old one) or choose one in their network.
Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
HMO insurance plans require you to have a PCP, and they also require you to pick a PCP from a specific list of ones in their network. Therefore, when switching PCPs, you’ll need to contact your insurance company to find out which PCPs are covered in your plan.
Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)
A PPO plan generally offers more flexibility when choosing a new provider. With a PPO plan, you aren’t required to have a PCP (though it is strongly encouraged), and you can choose PCPs that are not covered by your plan. That being said, choosing a provider out of your plan will be more expensive. You can contact your insurance company to find out which PCPs are covered.
Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO)
With an EPO plan, you do not need to have a PCP, but if you do want one, you must choose from a list of providers in your insurance’s network (like with an HMO). You can contact your insurance company to find out which PCPs are covered.
Point of Service (POS)
Like a PPO, with a POS plan, you can see a PCP outside of your network. However, it will cost more. But, again, you can contact your insurance company to determine which PCPs are covered.
3. Request your records.
To give your new PCP a better understanding of your medical history, you should share your medical records with them. Before you officially leave your old PCP, asking for a copy of your medical records is a good idea. If your doctor has a patient portal (e.g., a MyChart), your records should be accessible through it. You can also easily connect your doctor’s portal to your Guava account. Guava allows you to pull your records up whenever you need, search through them quickly, and see important lab results nicely displayed. If they don’t have a portal, you can call or email your old provider’s office and request a copy in any format you’d like (though we suggest a more secure format). Your provider is legally obliged to send you your records within 30 days. Once you’ve received your records, you should store them securely, like in a secure drive or in a personal health app like Guava. Then, when it’s time for your new appointment, bring your medical records and share them with your new PCP.
4. Try out your new PCP.
This last step is vital. Like I’ve said before, your PCP is an integral part of your health journey, so be vigilant during your first visit. Pay attention to office dynamics: are they busy? Are they friendly? Observe the way you and your PCP interact: do you feel comfortable? Are they taking your concerns seriously? Do you feel listened to and heard? All of these questions are important to ask when choosing a new PCP. It’s also crucial to understand that if you aren’t feeling great about your new PCP, you should switch. Listen to your gut. There’s no shame in trying multiple PCPs to find the best one for you. There are amazing primary care providers out there, so don’t settle for a relationship that’s not working for you.