Would you go to the baker for advice on cooking a roast? Would you ask your pharmacist to tell you how to change a tire? Likely not. You would likely ask the butcher how to prepare the best cut of meat for your Sunday dinner and consult a mechanic about how to properly change your flat. Seeking medical attention should be equally thought out.
The field of medicine is vast and incredibly concise. There are doctors who specialize in every aspect of the human body and its functions. Seeking the right doctor for the right reason is the key to optimizing your health care.
So, how do you do that?
Most people have what is called a primary care physician or General Practitioner. This means there is a point person who oversees your medical care on the day-in and day-out basis. This physician is likely the one you see when you have a cold or flu, sprained ankle, or a concern that you need help with. This physician generally conducts your annual well-care exams and maintains most of your baseline information and medical history.
When your primary care physician senses that an issue may require specialized opinions, diagnosis, or care, he or she will likely refer you to a specialist. They often have colleagues that they work closely with, or a network of providers whom they can connect their patients with, to take a more in-depth look.
If you have medical insurance, your carrier may have a protocol for finding, engaging, and paying for services from a specialist. Consult your agent or manual for details on how to access specialized care.
So, when should you seek a specialist?
A specialist is in order when your issue is very specific. Generalized issues are usually managed by primary care physicians or urgent care clinics. Here are some examples of when a specialist might be in order:
You have an acute injury or illness such as a broken bone or heart attack
You need follow-up care from an injury or illness
You have been diagnosed with a specific disease
You have a chronic issue that hasn’t responded to treatment
You have a recommendation from your primary care physician
These are only a few examples of reasons you should seek a specialist. Consult with your primary care physician if you are not sure what your next steps should be.
Just as you seek out the perfect provider in other areas of life, you should seek out the best physician for the intricate areas of your medical care. There is a right doctor for the right reason who can swiftly diagnose your case, provide quality care, and shorten the length of your healing.
See the other articles in the series: