What you Need to Know Before Seeing a Specialist

When seeking help for a sore throat or a sprained ankle, most of us will pick up the phone to consult with our family doctor. But how do you know whether the chest pain you woke up with is indigestion from last night’s chili, or the more serious murmurings of a heart problem?

How do you know when to page your family physician, or when it’s advisable to seek more specialized care?

What is the role of the family doctor?

The general practitioner is generally considered the first point of contact in the medical maze. The doctor-patient relationship is an ultimately personal and important one. My family doctor knows what medications I take, is privy to all of my medical confidences, and is acquainted with all the rotten apples on my family health tree. Because of this ongoing relationship, I turn to her when a new symptom crops up. She will assess my problem, and if necessary, provide a referral for more specialized care.

The old school days of the country doctor with the ubiquitous black bag are long gone. In the new school, advances in science and technology have spawned a model of efficiency where family doctors are complemented by specialists and even sub-specialists.

With the menu of provider choices before you, how do you decide when to see a specialist, and which kind to see? In addition to conferring with your family doctor, here’s what you should know before you see the specialist.