If you’re like most people, then going to see a doctor is not something you want to make a habit of… if you can avoid doctor visits, you will do everything in your power to not have to go. You even ate apples every day to try and keep the doctor away! How long was it before you realized that apples aren’t your solution to staying out of a doctor’s office? The reality of maintaining good overall health is that you have to visit the doctor at least once a year to know where you stand in your overall health.
For regular doctor visits, you probably have a primary care doctor (PCP). Your PCP is what you would call your “main” doctor. This is the physician you would see for your overall care. You typically see your PCP at least a few times a year, depending on what type of symptoms you’re experiencing. In visiting your PCP for a particular symptom, he might refer you to a specialist who can better provide the care you need for the symptoms you’re experiencing.
Some people get very nervous and anxious when they’re referred to a specialist because they don’t know what that means, as far as their health is concerned. Being referred to a specialist isn’t a bad thing. A specialist is a physician with advanced education, training, and experience in a particular field of medicine. So there’s no need to panic. Typically, your PCP will refer you to a specialist physician not because your PCP isn’t capable of treating you but more so because they know that you’d greatly benefit from a specialist’s expertise for the symptoms you’re experiencing.
Is It Really Necessary to See a Specialist?
When you already don’t like going to the doctor, being referred to a specialist is just another stressor added to your plate. You’re already concerned about having to see your PCP in the first place and now he’s referring you to see a different doctor… you’re thinking “what’s wrong with me!?” Some patients hate going to the doctor so much that they won’t go see a referred specialist because they think it’s the doctor’s way of trying to get more money out of them!
That’s not the case at all. Yes, going to see another doctor will cost you more money because you’re seeing a specialist and on top of that, upon seeing a new doctor, they’re probably going to run labs and tests to get a better idea of what’s going on with your body but it’s not a tactic to get more money out of you… it’s to see how they need to go about treating you. But it is understandable to be concerned about that… there are doctors out there that run unnecessary tests on patients (which is very illegal) but as a patient, you have the right to decline certain treatments and tests.
But overall, doctors truly do have their patients’ best interests at heart. Now, if you’re one who has concerns about going to see a specialist, that’s perfectly fine but there are certain ways to know that your PCP made the right call in referring you to one. Take a look at the signs that let you know when it’s definitely time to see a specialist.
When to See a Specialist
Your Symptoms are Not Ceasing
Upon experiencing the initial symptoms of your ailment, you, of course, seek treatment form your PCP. So, you go see your PCP and he recommends a specific type of treatment that should make you feel better but it’s been a couple of weeks of doing the treatment he recommended and you’re still not seeing any results… it is then when your PCP will refer you to see a specialist.
Again, it’s not that your PCP doesn’t know what he’s doing, it’s more so that his treatment recommendation didn’t work for you. For example, let’s say you’re having pain in your foot that’s also causing pain to other parts of your body. Your PCP recommended you to try four foot exercises to ease the pain you’re experiencing in your lower and upper body parts. Once you’ve done those exercises as he ordered, he may refer you to an orthopedic doctor. You, of course, have the option to find your own orthopedic doctor but in doing so, just make sure that doctor is in your insurance network.
You’ve Received a Diagnosis That Changes Your Life
This is also a huge reason to see a specialist… no questions asked. Some conditions that you might get diagnosed with can alter your way of life. If you were diagnosed with diabetes, you may be required to take insulin every day, which would then alter the types of foods and the amount of food you eat… that can be a major life change for people.
If you’ve had a stroke or been diagnosed with narcolepsy or Parkinson’s, your diagnosis could drastically alter the way you live. You may have to stop driving or make major modifications to your home to keep you safe and prevent injuries. So, if you receive a diagnosis that’s life-changing like that, you need to prepare yourself to see a specialist and prepare yourself to see your specialist quite often until they’ve managed your symptoms and gotten them under control.
You Have a Condition That’s Complex and Chronic
According to the CDC, six out of ten adults live with at least one chronic condition. A chronic condition is a condition that lasts for at least a year and recurs frequently. With chronic conditions, your PCP has the formal education to treat you but a specialist has extensive knowledge of your condition and is more up-to-date on continued education for chronic conditions as well as the latest treatments for those conditions.
So, you may have a chronic condition but to add any complexity to it will definitely require the expertise of a specialist. Again, it’s nothing to panic over, you just have to have it in your head that your specialist is there to help you. Once you have a full understanding of that ad established a good physician-to-patient relationship, you’ll be more open to seeing a specialist and following the treatment orders they give you.