Talking with Your Doctor

Talking with a Specialist

Your doctor may send you to another doctor called a specialist if he or she does not know a lot about your health problem or does not know what the health problem is. You can also ask to see a specialist, but your insurance plan may require you to have a referral from your doctor.

The Visit May Be Short

A visit with a specialist may be short. Often, the specialist already has information about your health from your primary doctor. For example, the specialist may already know your symptoms and medical test results.

Make Sure You Understand

If you do not understand something that the specialist tells you, ask questions. For example, you might say, "I do not know very much about the condition you said I have. Could you explain what it is and how it might affect me?" or “I’ve heard that is a painful problem. What can be done to prevent or manage the pain?”

Here are other questions to ask your specialist.

  • What is my diagnosis?
  • What treatment do you recommend? How soon do I need to begin the new treatment?
  • Will you discuss my care with my primary doctor?

It may be helpful to ask for written materials to read. You can also call your primary doctor to clarify anything you did not understand or that does not make sense to you after your visit with the specialist.

What Your Primary Doctor Needs to Know

Ask the specialist to send information about your diagnosis or treatment to your primary doctor. This will help your primary doctor keep track of your medical care. Also, during your next doctor visit, you should tell your doctor how well the treatment or medications prescribed by the specialist are working.