Seeing Specialists

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I saw an advertisement the other day for a neurosurgery practice. It made me feel kind of weird. I totally understand that all sorts of businesses can and should advertise, but when it comes to medical stuff like specialist doctors and prescription drugs, it makes me worry that I’m supposed to be figuring out if I need this stuff. Like, should I be checking constantly to see if I need brain surgery? How am I even supposed to do that stuff? I know I should be going to a doctor regularly, but I don’t know how often I’m supposed to visit the podiatrist or neurologist or whoever else. Help!


There are a lot of different medical specialties, and it takes all of them together to ensure that we have the care we need for every possible outcome. And when the time comes that you need a neurosurgeon or a podiatrist or any number of other specialists, you may be glad that you know the names of a few from advertising. But does this mean that it’s up to you to decide that you need to see a certain specialist at a certain time? No–at least, not entirely. Let’s talk about seeing specialists (and getting prescription medication, and other more advanced sorts of medical care) and how you can best ensure that you’re doing your part–while letting your primary care doctor do theirs.


First things first: the most important thing you can do for your own medical care is to make sure you visit your primary care physician regularly–at least once a year for an annual check-up, plus as many additional visits on whatever schedule that your trusted physician recommends. It is during these annual checkups that a doctor may notice something about your health that merits a follow-up from a specialist. It’s not unheard-of for neurosurgeons and other hyper-specialized medical practitioners to get walk-ins, say Neptune, New Jersey-based neurosurgeons at Atlantic Neurosurgical Specialists, but referrals are more common.


Of course, that doesn’t mean that there’s not some basic self-checking you can do, say providers at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s Harrisburg Gastroenterology Ltd. You’re the person who has to report symptoms you’re experiencing to your primary care doctor in order to get a referral. And there are important checks you can perform yourself.


For example, it’s always a good idea to perform some self-checks for cancer on a regular basis. It’s easy to check for skin cancer on one’s own, and checking for testicular and breast cancers isn’t hard, either. Paying attention to your body is always a good idea, and between regular self-checks and old-fashioned common sense, you’re likely going to be able to guess at when your doctor will want to send you to specialists like fertility specialists, spine and back doctors, and so on.


But, again, don’t need to worry so much about keeping track of all the specialists you see in ads. The same goes for medicines and treatments, of course. It doesn’t hurt to have a little background on this stuff, but remember that your doctor is the expert, not you. Trust them to connect you to the right specialist or treatment. Besides, many health insurance policies are going to require referrals before they cover visits to specialists–so striking out on your own seeking specific treatment can be as costly as it is ill-advised.


“Wherever the art of Medicine is loved, there is also a love of Humanity.” — Hippocrates