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Do You Love Your MS Doctor? If Not, It’s Time to Go “Doc-Shopping.”

Tips for Deciding if You Need a New Doctor and How to Get One


Updated June 08, 2010

There are some docs that we really do not need to click with to get what we need – the guy that sets a broken bone or prescribes antibiotics for an ear infection during a vacation can be a first-class jerk for all I care. I can get adequate care for a one-time, acute problem (especially a problem that can be cured) from pretty much anyone that has a degree and some common sense.

However, for those of us with multiple sclerosis (MS) or any other chronic disease, we need much more than a prescription pad with a human attached to it. We will need medical care for the rest of our lives. Not only that, MS is such a complicated, unique disease, that it is crucial that we have a doc that looks at the whole picture when deciding on the best treatment strategies for us. We need someone that thinks about us, including our lifestyles and our goals, who thinks about our MS and our constellation of MS symptoms, and then looks at how all of this stuff interacts to create our specific medical situation. Then we want this person to figure out how he or she can make it better now and keep us functioning as well as possible in the future.

This type of doctor-patient relationship is really a partnership. To have a lasting, productive working relationship with a doctor treating your MS, you have to have a great deal of trust in your doc, as you will be sharing intimate details about embarrassing symptoms, as well as your fears and hopes. You need to have a doctor that you feel good about, that you are confident has your best interests at heart.

All of that said, I can tell you from the many blog comments and e-mails that I receive that this is not the case for many people with MS. I hear from far too many people things that upset me, such as:

  • “My doctor laughed at me when I asked when the tingling in my feet was going away. He said, ‘I guess when there is a cure for MS.’”
  • “I didn’t even know that the medicine the doctor prescribed was an injection until it arrived at my house from the mail-order pharmacy.”
  • “I have been going to the same doctor for six years and he doesn’t even know who I am.”

Take a couple of minutes and think about your doctor. Do you feel like he or she really has your best interests at heart? Do you feel like a real person in your doctor’s office or do you get the feeling that you are just an appendage of your chart? Is this person the one that you want guiding you through many years of life with MS? Is this the very best you can do?

I have attached some articles to help guide your thinking, just in case you had any hesitation answering any of the above questions. You may take a look and decide that you are perfectly happy with your current situation, which is great. However, if you have the slightest misgiving or something just feels “off” about the relationship you have with your doc, you may want to think about exploring your options (or at least getting a second opinion).

Some of these articles come from the site of my colleague and friend, Trisha Torrey, the About.com Guide to Patient Empowerment. Take a look at her site, patients.about.com, for further ideas on how to get the very best medical care you can.

Now, back to your doc…

Do You Need a New Doctor?

Not every reason for switching doctors has to do with dissatisfaction. Sometimes we move, or change insurance carriers, so the decision is made for us. However, even if your doc’s office is five minutes from your house and your copay is minimal, if you don’t think you are getting the best care possible, it might be time to start looking around. Is It Time to Change Doctors?

What Kind of Experience Have You Had with Your Doc?

Some of the docs (and their comments) that I have heard about belong in some sort of Hall of Fame for horribleness. You should NEVER feel berated or condescended to by your physician. Regardless of how odd or embarrassing the symptom or the kind of questions you may ask, your doctor should be a team player – for your team, to be precise.

Take a look at what some of my readers have to say about some of the docs they have encountered on their MS journey (and add a comment of your own): Readers Respond: What was your best or worst doctor experience?

How to Choose the Right Doctor

Ideally, we would all have neurologists caring for our MS. There are a number of other considerations, like: Is the doc affiliated with an MS clinic? Is he or she an MS specialist, or a neurologist who treats all sort of other neurological disorders? Do you and this doc have similar thinking to how aggressive/conservative to be in treating your MS and symptoms? Of course, we all have things that are important to us in a doctor.

Take a look at the following articles to get you thinking about your priorities in a doctor: Choose the Right Doctor for Your Medical Care

How to Get a List of Neurologists

I have recommended my wonderful neurologist to several people who found me through different personal connections. However, most people lack access to someone with MS who has a fantastic neuro in their city (who is on their insurance plan, within a reasonable distance, etc.). There are a number of ways to get a list of neurologists to work from:

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Multiple Sclerosis
  4. Living Well with MS
  5. Changing Doctors for Multiple Sclerosis - Get a New Doctor for Multiple Sclerosis

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