Painful joints, muscles, bones or ligaments often mean a trip to a physician. And, if it’s time for a specialist, your doctor may refer you to an orthopaedic specialist for more advanced care.
“Physicians make referrals based on a number of factors. While their recommendations are important, remember that you have the right to choose,” says Dr. Tuvi Mendel, Orthopaedic Specialists. Dr. Mendel is a foot and ankle specialist with an additional qualification in sports medicine. Dr. Mendel also sees patients for knee problems as well.
“Do your own research and ask around. If you don’t agree with the initial referral provided by your primary care physician, know that you can request a referral to a particular group or specialist.”
Questions to Ask
Focus your research, which can be done by looking online or at websites, calling the office, picking up print materials, or through trusted contacts. Ask the following questions:
- Is your specialist board certified? Determine if he or she certified to focus in the specific area of your concern.
- Is your specialist also fellowship trained? In other words, has your specialist completed an extra program in the orthopaedic area of your concern and if so, does he continue to practice in that area? This is extremely important, as it assures your specialist will have expansive expertise.
- If you are going to need surgery, how many of these types of surgery has your specialist done? The more surgeries your specialist has done, the more experience he or she will have. Additionally, you can ask about infection rates and success rates; specialists who are proud of their work and success will readily provide this information.
- Do you know anyone who has had firsthand experience with the specialist? While someone else’s treatment and results can’t be compared to what you will experience, you can rely on trusted word-of-mouth to gain an understanding of the overall experience.
The administrative team at your physician’s office can often fill out your patient referral form and help you make an appointment, so don’t hesitate to ask questions and seek assistance.
According to Angie Van Utrecht, Director of Operations at Orthopaedic Specialists, a referral isn’t needed at all to see a specialist, unless your insurance requires it.
“Many specialist groups don’t require a referral in order to be seen or treated. At Orthopaedic Specialists, simply call and make an appointment,” she said. The only reason that we would require a referral is if a patient has an HMO plan, and in that case, it is required by the insurance company to obtain one. “
Whether using the specialist recommended by your doctor, or deciding to go in a different direction, it’s always worthwhile to research potential specialists and seek as much information as possible
about their education, experience and reputation.