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16 Clear Signs You Need to Fire Your Doctor

You can't always trust the white coat. These are the mistakes that are serious enough to warrant your finding a new doctor STAT.

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He touched you inappropriately

There are no hard stats on how many doctors sexually molest, harass, or abuse their patients, but it definitely happens, according to a study published in Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment. This is not only a crime, but also a clear violation of the doctor-patient relationship and can be devastating for victims. The researchers found the most common characteristics included being male and insisting on seeing patients alone. You should be allowed to have a nurse present during physical exams, and if a doctor declines, that’s reason enough to fire him. Here are more medical tips that doctors and nurses wish you knew.

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Her office is filthy

Despite the number of sick people going in and out, doctors’ offices are generally pretty sanitary places—even commonly handled items, like magazines, have actually showed pretty low levels of contaminants, according to a study in the British Journal of General Practice. But there have been cases of patients picking up serious or even fatal illnesses from improperly cleaned offices and equipment. You can’t see germs but a dirty, unkempt office is a good tip-off that things aren’t being sanitized properly.

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He stops taking your insurance

This one is more practical than moral, but paying out-of-pocket or even out-of-network costs is one way to drain your bank account fast. Keep your insurance information current and pay attention to any letters you get about changes in your doctor’s insurance. Health insurance can be a tricky system to navigate, so make sure you know these 18 secrets your health insurer is keeping from you.

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She prescribes antibiotics for everything

Antibiotic resistance is one of the top health concerns facing the world today, and a major contributing factor is the overuse of these drugs, according to the World Health Organization. In fact, one in three antibiotic prescriptions in the United States is unnecessary, according to the Centers for Disease Control. If your doctor either suggests antibiotics for everything (“just in case”) or bows to pressure from you (“it just feels like strep throat”), they’re not doing you (or the world) any favors. Got a cold? Use these doctor-approved tips for treating a head cold safely.

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He advertises a ton of different procedures

Being a jack-of-all-trades may be a bonus in fields like acting or plumbing, but when it comes to medical care, the more specialized your doc is, the better care you’ll get, says David Norris, CEO of MD Insider, a company that evaluates physicians based on their performance data. “Our data show that high performance comes down to how many times they’ve done that particular procedure,” he says. “The more they’ve done it, for the most part, the better they are at it.” So avoid doctors who advertise everything from face lifts to back surgery—because they can’t be an expert in everything.

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He won’t admit his mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes, even super-smart doctors, but the risks are higher in medicine. Check out the fatal mistakes doctors have confessed to making. A good doc will be open, honest and upfront with you about how things are going, Norris says. So if your doctor is always covering his tracks, blaming others, or if he flat-out lies to you, it’s time to find a new one. Honesty and transparency are the foundation of trust, and without them you can’t get good care, he adds. Here’s how to find a doctor you can trust.

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He doesn’t tell you the truth about your health

Physicians often minimize problems, fail to tell the whole truth, or resort to overly simplified explanations, especially when it comes to delivering news they know you won’t like, according to a study published in the Primary Care Companion. (Take, for instance, these 50 things doctors wish they could tell you about losing weight.) This may lead you to think you’re healthier than you are or to overlook a serious condition. You need someone who isn’t afraid to tell you the whole truth, in a kind and empathetic way.

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She orders every possible test

More is not more when it comes to medical tests. “Contrary to popular belief, more testing does not generally result in better outcomes,” Norris says. Sometimes the doctor will order unnecessary tests because she has a business reason for doing so, like she owns a stake in a certain company, gets a financial incentive, or just hasn’t done the necessary research to narrow done what might be ailing you—and rare is the patient who offers no clues at all in the office. These are the overprescribed medical tests you probably don’t need.

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He never tells you “no”

Whether it’s the result of Googling symptoms, bad advice from a friend, or just ego, sometimes patients come to a doctor with a very specific, but flawed request. (Which also happens to be one of the top things patients do that doctors find annoying!) It’s fine to ask for what you want, but it’s the doctor’s job to listen carefully, evaluate your symptoms, and then decide if that’s in your best interest medically. You may like a doctor who gives you medication or orders tests on demand, but ultimately they probably aren’t helping you—and may just be trying to avoid a bad online review, according to Norris. Just as in business, you don’t want a “yes man” in medical care.

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She doesn’t listen when you talk

Patients have to wait an average of 24 days to get an appointment (for a non-emergency visit); then they have to wait an average of 30 minutes in the office before seeing a doctor, according to a survey done by Merritt Hawkins, and yet the average exam lasts fewer than 15 minutes. What’s worse, patients are typically allowed to speak for only 12 seconds before being interrupted, according to a separate study in Family Practice. While doctors don’t have a lot of control over their wait times, they can—and should—give you adequate time to speak and listen to you when you’re in their office. Note: This is what doctors are really thinking about during your visit.

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He discourages second opinions

Nearly half of patients are misdiagnosed at some point, Norris says. This isn’t necessarily because of bad doctoring but rather because medicine is a complicated science. To make sure you’ve got the correct diagnosis, it’s important to seek a second opinion—and your doctor should recognize that. This man, for instance, was saved from going blind by getting a second opinion. Good doctors will even give you a referral. But if your doctor insists you go strictly by their word, time to find a new practitioner.

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She misdiagnoses you repeatedly

It’s hard enough to be misdiagnosed once but if it happens over and over again, it’s a clear sign that something is seriously wrong, Norris says. Whether the doctor isn’t taking the time to truly evaluate you, didn’t take a proper history, has faulty office procedures, is inexperienced, or has some other issue, you need to find a doctor who is able to work with you to find the true source of your health problem. Check out these tips from doctors themselves on how to get the best medical treatment.

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He pushes specific brand-name meds

Ninety-four percent of doctors have some type of relationship with pharmaceutical companies, meaning they get free samples, gifts, or consulting payments from reps for a specific drug, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. This can have an immense effect on how they prescribe. Information about new drugs is one thing, but if your doctor is pushing a certain brand-name medicine on you for any reason, it’s time to find one who’s less biased.

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She gives you bottomless pain pills

The U.S. government recently declared an opioid epidemic, and with good reason, as overdoses of opioids are the leading cause of death of middle-aged adults. Here’s why adults in their prime are the most likely to get addicted to opiates. While experts are still teasing out who is responsible, doctors who are overly generous in prescribing pain pills are certainly a part of the problem. No one wants to be in chronic, extreme pain, but your doctor should prescribe these types of pain pills only in very specific circumstances in limited amounts; otherwise you risk becoming addicted.

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He doesn’t wash his hands

The simple act of handwashing is one of the most powerful tools we have against disease today. Yet despite this knowledge, many doctors still skip this step between patients; one study found that just 22 percent of health-care professionals complied with handwashing standards. Your doctor’s office should have hand-sanitizing gel or soap and water in every patient room, and you should see your doctor use it before treating you. Make sure you’re avoiding these common hand-washing mistakes.

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She’s not board-certified


Having “MD” after their name is definitely an accomplishment, but all it shows is that doctors met the minimum competency standards. However, when doctors choose to get board-certified in one or more specialties, it shows they have “exceptional expertise” in that area, according to the American Board of Family Medicine. Looking for a doctor who specializes in the type of care you need will go a long way toward ensuring that you get the best care, Norris says, and while a board certification isn’t a guarantee, it’s definitely a good sign.

Here are 16 medical tips every patient should know.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen has been covering health and fitness for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 13 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She teaches fitness classes in her spare time. She lives in Denver with her husband, four children, and three pets.