Column: Should I see a specialist?


Commentary by Christopher DiPiro, MD

People often wonder whether they should see a specialist for medical concerns. While some health insurance plans require a referral to see a specialist, regardless of coverage terms, your primary care doctor is usually in the best position to help set the course for your healthcare. This includes recommending consultations with specialists. Here’s why:

Holistic care through an ongoing partnership. Because your primary care doctor sees you regularly and knows your medical history, he or she is the ideal partner to help manage all of your healthcare needs. With a big-picture approach, your PCP not only completes your annual physical exam, but recommends routine tests, keeps track of your medications, and ensures you’re up to date on screenings and preventive care. If specific medical issues develop, your doctor can take appropriate steps, which may include ordering preliminary tests to help determine if seeing a specialist is in your best interest.

Quality healthcare management for less. While there’s a misconception that some diagnosed health issues, including chronic diseases, require a specialist, the reality is that many health conditions can be effectively managed by your primary care physician at a lower cost.

Professional guidance. Even if you know you want to see a specialist, it’s wise to visit your primary care doctor first. Some patients mistakenly assume they need to see one type of specialist when their condition actually requires a physician in a different specialty. When working closely with your primary care doctor, he or she can provide valuable assistance by sharing your medical records and the results of completed tests, which saves time and avoids costly duplication of effort. Additionally, your doctor may be able to provide follow-up care, which also reduces costs.

Christopher DiPiro, MD, specializes in family medicine and is a guest columnist located at IU Health Physicians Primary Care – IU Health North Hospital. He can be reached by calling the office at 317.688.5522. For more health information, subscribe to Strength in You at