What Happens When You Have to Change Your GI Doctor?
Recently, a family member of mine mentioned that his gastroenterologist is retiring. Though this family member does not have Crohn's or UC, he has cultivated a relationship with this doctor over the years and has been feeling unsure about how to transition to a new doctor he isn't as familiar with it. Having moved 4 times since being diagnosed with UC, I'm familiar with the process of making a switch.
Looking for a new IBD doctor
First thing to ask is: Who will your new doctor even be and will they take your insurance? If you're changing to a doctor within the same practice, the latter may be less of an issue. Still, it is always good to make sure your doctor is in-network. This way, you won’t be hit with any unnecessary charges that could create more tension during this period of change.
You might also ask your current doctor for a recommendation for a new doctor. If you like your current GI, you may want to see someone that your doctor also likes and respects. As you choose a doctor, you can also consider if there are any identities that you are particularly comfortable with. Perhaps you'd like to see a woman, or someone who is explicitly LGBTQ+ friendly, for example. You may also want to see what the doctor's specialty is. When I moved to Philadelphia, for example, I hooked into the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at UPenn, meaning that my care became more individualized to my disease.
Your first appointment with a new GI
Have old records sent over
Once you've found your doctor, the first appointment can be nerve-wracking. It's easy to wonder what will happen and if you will click with the new provider. Make sure that your old doctor has sent over your records. This way, your new doctor will have all the information to look through ahead of time.
Prepare notes about your IBD
You should also spend some time prior to the appointment going over your personal story, so you can tell it in your own words, start to finish. Also be sure to go over what your treatment plan and if you feel it has been working, so you can relay this to your new provider. You can write down bullet points ahead of time, if you like, and you can also include any and all questions in those notes.
Communication is key
Most importantly, tell your new provider what has worked for you in the past. If you communicate with your old doctor once a month for updates, tell your new doctor you'd like to do the same. If you know that prednisone makes you feel awful, tell the new doctor. Remember that you are the expert on your body and your new doctor needs that information to assist you. Be kind, but firm and clear and remember that you can always switch again if need be.
When you've built a strong relationship with your GI, it can be hard to imagine what will happen if you ever have to change practices due to insurance or other life circumstances, or if you have to deal with your doctor's retirement. It can be done smoothly with collaboration on both sides, and a little bit of patience.
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