At some point, your primary care provider will recommend you see a specialist for a condition that may need further exploration and attention. They will likely recommend a specialist that they know and trust, but it makes sense to do your homework and find a provider that is the right fit for your specific needs and circumstances.
Diagnosis. First, understand the preliminary diagnosis given to you by your primary care provider. If it’s a chronic skin condition, how was it caused? It could be an allergic reaction, a nutrient deficiency, or it may have dermatological causes. Your primary physician will provide guidance as to whether you are more likely to need an allergist, dietitian, or a dermatologist.
Insurance. Check with your insurance company to find out what is or isn’t covered, out-of-pocket costs, and whether the specialty is available in-network. If it is, make note of the names of those providers. Find out if your primary’s suggestion is listed there. If the specialty is not included, ask about costs associated with out-of-network providers. You may also want to ask if they have a specialty they would recommend instead.
Referrals. Ask your family and friends who they recommend and why. Compare their suggestions with your list of in-network providers.
Location. If transportation or distance is a concern, you may wish to narrow your list to those providers who are most accessible to you.
When you have your list of specialists you’d like to call, here are some questions that may help you decide on which to choose:
New patients. The list provided by your insurance company may indicate whether the specialists are taking new patients. Sometimes that notation has not been updated, so you may want to call the specialists’ office, anyway, to confirm their availability.
Expertise. Read as much as you can about the specialists. Are they board-certified? What is their educational background? Do they have any sub-specialty certifications? Are they affiliated with your preferred hospital? How are their reviews?
Experience in your issue. Specialists have expertise in everything having to do with their particular area, but they will have more years of experience in certain areas depending on where they were educated and where they spent the majority of their career in practice. Some dermatologists may have more years of experience with acne than psoriasis. Some endocrinologists may have more years with diabetes than hypothyroidism. Everyone will have the level of experience you need, but always feel free to call their office and ask how many years of experience they have in your particular concern.
Your first appointment. Once you have chosen your specialist, make an appointment. Bring your medical history, medications list, and questions. Note the environment, the staff, and whether you feel the provider listens and treats you as you prefer.
Get a second opinion. Whether you feel your first choice was a good fit or not, it’s a good idea to visit one more specialist to determine your comfort level and choices, both in specialist and in treatment options. Your confidence in and ability to communicate with your doctor are important components of good healthcare.
The National Institutes of Health offer several helpful suggestions on choosing a doctor. WebMD provides additional information on how to choose a specialist or primary care physician here. Learn more about all the specialties available through Saratoga Hospital Medical Group here.
Monday – Friday:
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Extended hours, by appointment:
Monday – Friday:
7:30 AM – 8:00 AM