Seeing a Medical Specialist: Everything You Need to Know

From developing an allergy to starting a family, at some point nearly everyone will have a reason to be referred to a medical specialist. Whether you’ve been with the same family practitioner for years or have been with many, seeing a new provider can be an overwhelming process.

First, it’s important to understand medical specialists and how they differ from your primary care physician. Your primary care physician has been trained to deal with the common medical needs of a certain population. This population might be specific or broad. For example, geriatricians are primary care physicians trained to handle the needs of older adults. Meanwhile, family care physicians are board-certified to care for adults and children of all ages.

Specialists have received intensive and extensive training in one area of medical need. They know more about this specific area than a primary care provider. Some common types of specialists include oncologists (who treat cancer), dermatologists (who treat disorders of the skin), and obstetricians (who care for pregnant women).

Choose the Right Specialist

Check the details of your insurance benefits and determine if you need a referral from your primary care doctor in order to see a specialist. Locate the list of providers covered by your insurance. Narrow that list down by checking online reviews and asking friends and coworkers if they’ve had experience with the same doctor.

Prepare for Your First Appointment

To make your first visit as smooth and efficient as possible, it helps to prepare a few things in advance. You will probably need to fill out forms and answer several questions, so follow this checklist to make sure you’re ready:

  • Have your insurance card with you.
  • Bring any referral paperwork your primary care provider gave you.
  • Know important facts about your family’s medical history, such as if anyone in your family has suffered from cancer or diabetes.
  • Have a list of any medications you take and be prepared to talk about your medical conditions.
  • Be prepared to give details on the reason for your visit.

Arrive early so you have plenty of time to complete forms before your appointment. To save time on paperwork, many offices will let you fill out medical history forms online in advance. When you call to make your appointment, ask if this option is available.

Make the Most of Your Visit

It can be easy to get confused when you’re faced with medical jargon. In order to remember and understand all the information your medical specialist gives you, come armed with a pen and paper to take notes, as well as a list of any questions you might have. That way, you won’t forget to ask important questions and you’ll go home with information you can review later. Don’t be afraid to stop the specialist and ask for a more in-depth explanation if necessary.

Follow Through After Your Visit

It’s important to follow through on any treatment your specialist recommends. In some cases you may be referred to another specialist for care. For example, if you have a physical injury you may be referred to a physical therapist. Follow the same steps when seeing any other providers to make it quick and easy, too. After your treatment with a specialist is complete, make sure their office sends information about your care to your primary care doctor to add to your medical records.

Even with the most thorough prep work, you might find that you aren’t comfortable with the specialist after your first visit. There’s nothing wrong with seeking a second opinion. You might need to revisit your specialist several times over the course of treatment, so it’s important that you find someone who makes you feel comfortable and safe.

Seeing a new doctor can be a stressful process. However, doing research and preparing can help ensure that your visit with a medical specialist goes smoothly and that you get the best care for your needs.

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