Finding a neurologist who is right for you can be more of a process than you might think. Doctors are humans first, and nobody is perfect. But when you’re suffering from chronic pain and you’re referred to a specialist, it isn’t always easy to walk away and look for another one.
Here are some of the reasons why you might want to switch neurologists:
The Basics Aren’t There
There are certain fundamentals you should be able to expect from your medical practitioner, however, and these are your first point of reference:
- Respect – For your time, money and feelings
- Compassion – For your illness and concerns
- Interest – In your symptoms, the progress of your condition, your response to medication
Without these basic attributes, your relationship with the neurologist is likely to be rocky from the outset.
S/He Won’t Order Tests
As much as we all hate medical tests, there are some that are vitally important for achieving an accurate diagnosis. An MRI, for example, is important for most neurological conditions, and if your practitioner is reluctant or can’t be bothered to request the test, how can you expect the diagnosis to hit the mark? Regardless of how qualified a neurologist may be, if he doesn’t use the tools available there’s a strong chance the results will be less than accurate.
You’re Being Rushed In…and Out
Good doctors are usually very much in demand, so you don’t really want to go to someone who isn’t busy. Once you’re accepted onto the neurologist’s patient list, however, you expect to get the time you’re paying for. If you’re:
- Constantly kept waiting long after the appointment time
- Are sent from the waiting room to a consulting room and left to sit there for a further 30 minutes or more
- Get to see the doctor for a 7-minute consult before s/he rushes off to the next patient
- Are told you need to make another appointment to discuss a further issue
then your doctor is trying too hard to fit in too many patients. If you don’t get the consultation time you (or your insurance) is paying for, you’re being sold short.
You Aren’t Getting Personal Attention
Many busy neurologists employ physician assistants and nurses to help manage the workload, and these are mostly capable, qualified people. It’s one thing to have a PA check your blood pressure, but if you’ve consulted with a particular doctor because of their specialization it’s essential that you get to see them to have the benefit of that expertize. If you’re frequently “fobbed off” onto a secondary staff member and hardly get to see the neurologist, it might be time to look for one who isn’t quite so busy.
You Don’t Get Appropriate Answers
The medical profession is constantly exhorting patients to take more control over their own healthcare by asking questions and obtaining the facts about their conditions. This often means asking your doctor challenging questions, such as querying alternative diagnoses and treatments, or asking about information you find online. If your neurologist gets defensive or angry, or refuses to answer your questions, you should consider finding someone who doesn’t.
Your Neurologist Won’t Admit Mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes, and that includes medical practitioners. The important measure is whether your neurologist is prepared to admit when a treatment is an experiment, when something isn’t working or even when s/he doesn’t know what else to try. A doctor who is so convinced of his or her infallibility that they aren’t open to suggestion and discussion or to considering your viewpoint is likely to be stuck in their ways and not open to trying new methods of treatment.
When you consult with a neurologist, you expect a certain level of care and unless you get it, you aren’t getting the benefit of your money. Look for a doctor who:
- Specializes in your particular condition
- Comes with good patient reviews across a range of sites and time-frames
- Gives you personal attention and shows interest in your concerns
- Is willing to explore your ideas and make you a partner in your chronic pain management
When you find the right neurologist, you may well have to join a wait list for a time before you're actually able to switch to them. Also, you could be expected to pay the costs associated with copying your records and sending them to the new neurologist. Once you are accepted as a patient, it's important to play your part by keeping appointments, paying on time and following treatment protocols correctly.
Successful healthcare is a collaborative process, and a good relationship with your neurologist can go a long way towards effective chronic pain management.