When it comes to health, most of the time we’re set with a general checkup from a PCP, or Primary Care Physician (or family practice doctor, or general practitioner), who has a solid overall understanding of the various ailments or illnesses patients face. You may even have a minor condition that can be solved with a quick trip to a nearby immediate care center. Every now and again, however, we need to turn to a specialist. If you start experiencing symptoms of anything, the best person to turn to first is your PCP; however, the PCP may ultimately decide to refer you to a more specialized doctor. He or she may do this right away, or the PCP may have you try a few preliminary drug or therapy treatments first, and then, if the issue doesn’t improve, send you on to a specialist. This doesn’t mean that your PCP is passing the buck. It means that he or she has an idea as to what your problem is but wants to be absolutely sure–and wants you to get the best care possible.
Take your doctor’s advice. It could save your life. For instance, if your doctor thinks you have a stomach condition, he or she may send you to a clinic like this Harrisburg, Pennsylvania gastroenterologist. You may have something relatively minor, such as acid reflux, or you may have a more serious condition, such as Chron’s disease or colitis. It’s essential to get on top of these conditions as quickly as possible. Your doctor can perform a basic pap smear or pelvic exam, but if he or she notices anything out of the ordinary, you’ll likely be sent to an OB/GYN for a second opinion or further tests.
Once you’re established with a specialist, you may need to make recurring appointments and start communicating directly with this new doctor. Some issues, such as seeing a podiatrist after a foot injury, may not require years of visits with that doctor; others, such as rheumatoid arthritis, will require you to have a lifetime commitment with a rheumatologist. Of course, this never means that you should give up on your PCP! There will always be other health concerns that come up (or simply your yearly wellness check-up). Keep your PCP informed of the developments with your specialty doctor. Sometimes these doctors are within the same medical system. If your PCP is part of a hospital system, he or she may refer you to another doctor within the system, which makes life easier for you, since all your records will be in one place. For instance, this pediatric clinic in Carthage, New York is part of the larger Carthage Area Hospital, which offers services from such as cardiology to family medicine. Your doctors might not be within the same system, though, so be sure that your records with both doctors are always up-to-date, so that each is aware of your various treatments and medications.