Key Takeaways:

  1. While there are multiple types of providers who can treat the same injury or illness, specialists differ significantly in their education, training, and scope of practice.
  2. Many insurance plans allow individuals to see specialists without a referral, leaving patients to themselves to determine the right doctor to see.
  3. Seeking professional help when choosing a provider can help save time and money, ensure you are getting the right specialist for your specific health needs, and help prevent misdiagnoses. 

After working in health care for over 20 years, a common question I get from friends, family and clients is about what type of doctor to see. It often goes something like this: “I’m having pain in my foot. Should I go to an orthopedic surgeon or a podiatrist?” This is no surprise, considering there are over 120 different types of medical specialties and subspecialties. Many of these specialists treat the same injuries or illnesses, but differ in their education, training and approach. In some cases, your primary care physician will refer you to a specialist, but often, patients are left to themselves to figure out where to go. Here are four reasons why you should consult with a professional when deciding what type of specialist to see:

  1. Avoid unnecessary costs and wasted time: Go to the right specialist the first time to avoid paying extra copays and other out of pocket costs. Plus, the time you spend traveling to the appointment and sitting in the waiting room is all time that could be better spent.
  2. Not one size fits all: Choosing the right doctor to see is unfortunately more complicated than simply Googling your symptoms. Who you should see must be determined based on your specific health concerns and needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
  3. Expand your options: When faced with the same symptoms and health history, doctors can differ significantly in their diagnosis and treatment approach. There may be other types of specialists you had not thought about or realized could treat your condition.
  4. Prevent a misdiagnosis: A study from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that errors in diagnosis (as well as delayed and missed diagnoses) occur in as many as 20% of cases. Fortunately, getting a second opinion can help.

If you want help choosing a provider, deciding what type of specialist to see, or are not sure what your insurance will cover, Better Health Advisors can help.