Many people see more than one doctor or
health professional. Your primary care doctor, such as your internist or family doctor, may refer you to another doctor for a
problem. You may see a specialist for another health concern. You may need a
Having many doctors can help you get the best care, but
it also can cause problems. If you don't talk often to your doctors, or if your
doctors don't talk to each other, you may:
Be confused about which medicines you need to
Not know which doctor to ask about a health problem.
Be asked the same questions over and over, or be asked to repeat a
Become frustrated because you're getting different
advice on your treatment.
You can avoid or reduce these problems and make things easier
on yourself by working with your doctors. Below are some things you can
Have a health care team
When you have many doctors,
think of them as your team. Tell each doctor that you expect him or her to talk
with the other doctors about your care.
Write down your doctors' names and what they do
in your care. Give each doctor a copy of this information.
primary care doctor to coordinate your care. He or she will know
all the tests, medicines, and treatments you are getting and help you with any
Ask your other doctors to tell your primary care
doctor their treatment plans, including tests, medicines, physical
therapy, surgeries, and food or exercise suggestions or limitations.
Ask your primary care doctor to help you list all
your medical problems and treatment plans. This will help you and your doctor track your care and find problems more easily.
If you are being treated for both physical and mental
health problems, be sure all your doctors know this. One problem can make a
difference in the other problem. For example, a mental health symptom may make
it hard to know that you have a physical problem. And some of the medicines
used for mental health problems can lead to physical problems or make them
Work with your team
Here are some ideas for working with your health care team:
Ask about all your health problems when you see
a doctor, but focus on your biggest needs or questions.
don't understand something your doctor says or does, ask about
Try to schedule doctor visits and tests on the same day and in
the same part of town. This will help you save time and will be more
Ask your doctors
or their staff how long visits will take, including time
in the waiting room. Knowing what to expect can ease worry about the time you
spend on your health care.
Ask your doctors if you can use
e-mail to ask questions and forward the answers to your other doctors. The
answer you get from one doctor is important for other doctors to know.
Be sure to ask about e-mail security and the types of questions best
asked in e-mail.
Ask your doctors to share your test
results with you and the other doctors. You don't want to have to do the same
test twice or wait for days while one doctor asks for the results of a test
from another doctor.
Get the right advice
Having more than one health
problem can be confusing. You may have problems understanding what you're
supposed to do for each health problem.
One doctor may want you to
exercise a certain way, but another one may say you need to avoid
One doctor may suggest a surgery at one hospital, but you
may want to use another hospital.
One doctor may order a
CT scan, but you think you just had one last month for
If you receive different directions from different doctors:
Say so right away. Ask the one doctor to call
the other and talk about the best approach.
Contact your primary care
doctor. Ask him or her to help you find what you need to
Remember that it's your team, and your wishes are important.
For example, if a hospital close to you and one farther away have the same
care, tell your team that distance matters when choosing a
Don't act until you are sure. For example, if you think
you've just had a test, don't schedule another until you know whether you need
it or already have had it.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.