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One of the first places people go to find a specialist is to their insurance company website. Yet, the may not understand the different specialties and refer themselves to the wrong specialist. This could result in a delayed diagnosis, the wrong diagnosis, the wrong treatment plan or simply wasting your time and money.
To get started in the right direction, you need to be able to find the type of doctor that corresponds to your particular symptom or condition. There are several types of doctor specialties, however this article will address the sub-specialties of Internal Medicine.
An Internal Medicine physician is a ‘general doctor for adults.’ Internal Medicine doctors may also be referred to as ‘General Internist,’ ‘Generalist,’ ‘Internist’ or ‘Primary Care Physician’ (PCP). They are not surgeons. They do not perform operations. They listen to patient histories, perform physical exams, make a diagnosis and often prescribe medications to treat a condition or disease. They often treat aches and pains, sore throats, colds and allergies, high blood pressure, diabetes, indigestion, perform annual physical exams and coordinate some preventive screenings.
The physician’s training determines the specialty. After medical school, doctors must complete a residency. That residency can last anywhere from three to nine years and can be in various areas of medicine—for example, Pediatrics, Ob/GYN and Internal Medicine—are three different types of residencies a doctor can perform. Often after residency, the doctor wants to further sub-specialize—that is, focus even more on one particular area. To sub-specialize, the doctor must then complete what is called a fellowship. That fellowship is an additional two to four years of training.
If you look up a doctor and the website lists two specialties:
In these examples, these doctors have gone on to specialize in Pulmonology or Cardiology, and they are not a General Internist or primary care physician (PCP).
At Alight, our Health Pro Consultants deal with employees who face this challenging situation. They may have tried to look up a PCP on the insurance website, and when they visit the office, they learn that the doctor is actually a cardiologist. As a result, they have wasted their time and now need to find another doctor.
With healthcare navigation services like those from Alight, having a good understanding of the different sub-specialties, you can increase the likelihood of finding the right kind of high-quality doctor from the start.