Dismissing a Patient for Seeing Two Physicians

August 14, 2014

Some patients are choosing to drive long distances to continue seeing a trusted physician who has moved. But is it OK to retain a "back up" physician, just in case?

Early this week I had an astonishing phone call from our local pediatrician's office - I think I was just fired, or more accurately my children were fired from our local pediatrician's office.

My home is in the expansive metro area of Dallas/Fort Worth. The pediatrician that we love - and have used since my kids were born - moved across the metroplex and is now about a 25-mile drive away. Luckily, my kids are really very healthy, I can count on one hand the number of times we have had to go to the doctor for sick visits. So, we decided to stay with our original pediatrician (let's call her Dr. A) and make that drive as required, but to also become established with a local pediatrician (let's call her Dr. B) for any urgent issues that might occur.

We went to the new provider, Dr. B, to get established. We were upfront with what our goals were: to become established for urgent needs, but since we had such history with Dr. A, we wanted to maintain her as well, for the time being.

So, recently, I received a phone call from the nurse at Dr. B's office, politely threatening to fire me as a patient if my family didn't fully transfer our care to their office, and release our original pediatrician. Fascinating right?

Of course, I explained to her again what our goals were and reminded her that we had discussed this at length in the office on two occasions. Interestingly enough, the reason for this change is that Dr. B has decided I am endangering my children by being established with two pediatricians.

Now initially I took the perspective of an irritated and offended consumer, thinking "How dare they!" and "My money and insurance spends just fine there!" Those thoughts slowly changed to, "No problem, this (along with a few other indicators) is a sure sign that she is not the provider or office for us." Now a few days later, with my "professional head" screwed on tightly, I am looking at this through the lens of "What if this were my client or even my practice from back in the days of working in a medical practice?"

Even with my professional head (nursing, managing, and consulting), I still disagree with Dr. B's reasoning. I wonder if you, as the reader and likely a practitioner or manager, feel that this is endangering a child as well. I also wonder, was this an overzealous nurse, or did Dr. B ultimately feel this way and was uncomfortable approaching this subject herself in the clinic?

If this practice were my client, I would advise them to handle this in a much better way. Perhaps the provider could have indicated she didn't like the idea at the initial appointment, or even the scheduler who scheduled the appointment, with the understanding that our goal was to try this practice out as a "back-up" that might turn into our "forever pediatrician."

Certainly a dose of training so that all of the practice team knows and understands the goals and limitations of the practice would be in order.

It may seem trivial but look at it this way, a happy patient may not tell anyone about their experience, a "wowed" patient will tell their friends and family, and a patient that feels like they had a poor experience will tell the world.