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As a patient, what can and should I do if I'm calling with an important question (a problematic, uncomfortable -- but not emergency room-worthy -- symptom, or a prescription is running out and I urgently need a refill) and I simply cannot get the doctor to respond, or get what I need from the office. Every time I call, the office staff say they'll pass on the message, or I leave voice mail messages, and I don't get a call back from the doctor. And if I reach staff, they say "We've passed this on to the doctor, but we can't make him or her call you back, we'll just leave another message," etc. -- Betty


I wish I could give you a straight and sure-fire answer, but I can't. You first must ask yourself whether you trust your doctor and want to stick with him/her for the long run. Because if you have not established a longstanding relationship and you could readily change doctors then that makes the most sense. On the other hand, many people really don't have a choice; either their doctor is the best in their specialty or is the only one available. In that case you need to persist.

As far as the prescription needing a refill, do everything you can in the future to request the refill long before you need it. Sometimes your pharmacist will help out by calling the doctor's office for you. If you have troubling symptoms that you need to discuss with your doctor, make an appointment if you can. Many doctors prefer seeing you face-to-face. If an appointment isn't realistic then let the office staff know exactly what is troubling you and why you are so worried. Office staff usually respond better to patients that trust them to give this private information to the doctor. I can remember my own offic staff getting angry when patients wouldn't tell them exactly what it was they needed to speak to the doctor about. It is your health on the line, so kindly but firmly persist! (August, 2002)

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Marie Savard, M.D. is an internationally known internist and women’s health expert, author and champion for patient rights and responsibilities. She is the founder of The Savard System and author of two highly acclaimed books, How to Save Your Own Life: The Savard System for Managing and Controlling Your Healthcare and The Savard Health Record: a six-step system for managing your health care. For more information from Dr. Savard, read: For more information on Marie Savard's books, The Savard Health Record: A Six Step System for Managing Your Healthcare, and How to Save Your Own Life: Dr. Savard's Nine Steps to Getting the Healthcare You Really Need, see

Dr. Marie Savard's website is located at

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