There are different types of doctors that can help with your complete health. Medical doctors (MD/DO) fall into two categories: primary care providers (PCPs) and specialists. Primary Care Providers, often referred to as general practitioners, are doctors who practice family medicine and are trained to be your first point of entry into the health care system. They are expert “health detectives” who track your health over time. PCPs are your health care quarterbacks. They coordinate care and refer you to a specialist when needed for further investigation.
Specialists are doctors who have advanced training and degrees in a specific branch of medicine, such as the heart (Cardiologist), skin (Dermatologist) and musculoskeletal conditions (Orthopedist), to name a few. Many specialists are trained to perform surgery and other invasive procedures. Many health care companies will require you to get a referral from your PCP to see a specialist.
Why would I need a specialist?
Choosing the right doctor to help with your specific health care condition is very important. A specialist is required for complex care and is best suited to offer advanced expertise of a particular condition. Specialists can recommend and perform procedures or surgical intervention to improve immediate and long-term outcome for a specific condition or injury. A specialist will work closely with you to manage your treatment process and provide a complete treatment plan that will get you back to doing the things you love faster. There are different types of specialists, some of which include:
- Allergists or immunologist
- Cardiovascular surgeon
- Emergency medicine physician
- Geriatric medicine specialist
- Hand surgeon
- Plastic surgeon
- Sports medicine specialist
- Vascular surgeon
How do I prepare for my appointment?
Never before have people had so many kinds of doctors to choose from. The relationship that you have with your doctor will ultimately influence your health. Make sure to establish an open, honest and comfortable relationship with your doctor as he/she will most likely support your desire to take an active role in your health care. Make sure to think about these things when choosing your doctor:
- Is he/she board certified and well-trained?
- Does he/she come highly recommended?
- Will he/she be available when needed?
- Is he/she easy to talk to and is willing to work in partnership with you?
- Is he/she in your health care plan’s network of providers?
It is important to have medical records from previous treatment for the same or a similar problem on hand for your visit. Make a list of all prescriptions and non-prescription medicines that you are taking.
How do I make the most of my appointment?
Your doctor is an expert on medical care, but you are the expert on yourself. During your visit, make sure to state the problem or reason for your visit, describe all of your symptoms openly, include past experiences with your problem and state how the problem is affecting your life. Honest communication is key to building a great relationship with your doctor. Ask questions about medicines, tests and treatment plans. At the end of your visit, be sure to ask:
- when should I return for another visit?
- when will my test results be available?
- are there other signs and symptoms to look for?
- what else do I need to know?
How can I be proactive with my health?
Follow-up care is a critical part of your treatment. Watch closely for changes in your health and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems or symptoms that concern you. Often there is more than one option for treating a condition. By being a partner with your doctor, you can help choose the option that best fits your values, beliefs, and lifestyle.
Disclaimer: this information is not a substitute for medical care. As always, you should consult with your doctor or health care provider.