In need of a medical specialist? How do you find the type of specialty provider that will utilize the best approach for your situation? Use the steps in this post (free checklist included).
First thing – don’t settle for just anyone. Not every visit to a specialist requires finding the best – sometimes it is a problem that any specialist can treat. But other times, you should have the best specialist to address your health problem.
When I say best, I don’t mean the best in the country.
I mean the best for the ailment, you and your family, and your lifestyle. In many cases, more than one specialty provider type (i.e., a dermatologist and a plastic surgeon) can treat the same problem.
But they will each ‘look at it’ from a different approach.
You are looking for the best approach to treat your problem – along with consideration to everything else going on in your health, family, habits, and life.
Treatment options are not all equal.
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For example, there is a big difference between treating a problem with a medication, having surgery, or using a procedural intervention. And, these differences become more extreme as you age, develop comorbidities or other ailments, depending on what work you do, and whether you are providing care for children or other adults.
We all want to find the best care when we need it. But this can be a lot to consider and it does require some investigative work. Thankfully, there is a process to find the approach that best fits your needs.
Due diligence will pay off when you can see the right provider and receive the proper treatment – without the hassle of unnecessarily seeing (and paying for) multiple specialists.
Here are the three main steps to make sure you find the best specialist.
Do Online Research to Find the Best Specialist the First Time
First, start at the very beginning.
Do an online search for the most common treatments for your problem. Look at several major and local healthcare system websites (i.e., Mayo Clinic, John’s Hopkins Hospital) or government websites (i.e., National Institutes of Health-NIH, Centers for Disease Control). Search for your symptom (or the name of your ailment if you know it). Look for a link called ‘treatment’ to see a list of the common treatment options. Look at the treatment suggestions on 2-4 websites. Find the treatments that are on each website.
Now you know a baseline of the standard treatment options for your problem.
Next, make an appointment to discuss your ailment and all of the standard treatment options with your primary care provider.
Talk to Your Primary Care Provider to Find the Best Specialist the First Time
Ask your primary care provider (PCP) what choice they recommend and why. Also, ask them which type of specialist treats each treatment option. Be sure to discuss the recovery period of each treatment option and everything going on in your life regarding your health, work, home life, and family. Then, ask your PCP if they know of the best specialist to treat your ailment.
You may be able to start with their recommendation. But, do some digging even after you receive a referral from your PCP. Remember, you want to see the best specialist, not to just a specialist.
You need to validate recommendations for yourself!
Note Medical Expertise & Experience to Find the Best Specialist the First Time
Now do a little research on the name(s) of the specialist you’ve been given to confirm he/she is the best provider for your needs.
You are looking for information showing that the provider has a particular area of interest or specific expertise in treating your symptom.
For example, if you think you need to have surgery on your hand, seek a surgeon who only operates on hands (versus a general surgeon or orthopedic surgeon).
Many providers have a specific area of expertise. Take advantage of that when it is available to benefit from the experience of the person working only in that area.
Typically their patients will have the shorter recovery periods and better outcomes-which can be a cost saving to you.
Read everything you can about them online. Note anything that causes a red flag related to how the treatment will affect you regarding your health/recovery, home life, work, or lifestyle. If red flags are noted, consider calling their office and speaking to the provider’s nurse to talk through your concerns to determine whether this person is the best specialist.
Healthgrades.com is a website that shares healthcare provider reviews. Look for any complaints or concerns there.
Find the Best Specialist the First Time
You can also review the information online to discover how long the specialist has been a practicing provider (you don’t want to be someone’s first ‘interesting case’). Also, look for any data showing specific areas of study, certifications, special training, or research.
Finally, if you don’t have a PCP or if your case is complicated, you may want to consider seeking a consultation (a visit where you hear what treatment the provider would offer, but you don’t agree to treatment during that visit) with both a medical and a surgical (or procedural) specialist to discuss the treatment options in more detail.
Finding the best specialist can be done if you follow these key steps. Always start with your own online research to get basic knowledge and understanding of the standard treatment options. Next, talk with your primary care provider to discuss the options and how each specialist will approach treatment and how it will affect your life. Lastly, do even more research on the specialist before seeking an appointment. A few minutes of preparation will help you find the best specialist the first time. And then, you will have the greatest potential for the best outcome possible.