Everyone needs a doctor or health care provider they can go to for regular check-ups. The problem: the medical expert you need to diagnose and fix what ails you may be harder to find if you don’t know what they do. Once you know the basics, you’ll be well on your way to getting the health care you need and deserve.
So, let’s break “doctors” down into two types: the primary care physicians and the specialists.
The Main Doctors on the Case
The most common types of doctors offer primary care. You’ll see and/or need one of these physicians most often:
Family and General Practitioners: These doctors manage health care for the entire family, or they know who to refer you to if you need assistance from a specialist. Basically, they carry out physical exams, annual check-ups, screenings, immunizations and they help you manage infections, viruses, etc.
Dentists: These doctors specialize in the general health and care of your mouth and teeth – oral health. They also give referrals to other dentists that specialize in diseases and treatments related to the care of your mouth and teeth.
Internists: An internal medicine physician, or internist, is a doctor who coordinates health care for adults only.
Obstetrician/Gynecologist (OB/GYN): These doctors specialize in women's vaginal and reproductive health. You’ll see an OB/GYN if you need a pelvic exam or if you’re having problems related to the vagina, or if you're pregnant and need prenatal, childbirth and after-delivery care.
Pediatricians: These doctors manage general infant, youth and teen-age health care. They give your child physicals for school, vaccinations and give check-ups. They also give referrals to child specialists.
When Specialists Step In
Your primary care physician may give you a referral to a “specialist,” a doctor who has an advanced education and training in one medical area. So, don’t worry if you’re referred to a specialist. They are just experts in specific parts of the human body. From the dermatologist (skin doctor) to the cardiologist (heart doctor), just make sure to check to see if your specialist is board certified.
Remember, while you may want a specialist on your case as soon as you feel sick, many specialists will not see you unless you have been referred by your primary care physician or your health care provider. Most insurance companies will not pay for a specialist's care if you haven’t been referred by your primary care physician, as well.
So, if you receive a referral, check this listing of specialists to learn more about what they do, and at your scheduled visit go prepared so that you can make the most of your appointment.