It can be difficult to find a medical specialist when you need to find one. You need someone who can treat your problem in a reasonable time frame. Sifting through the finer details such as getting appropriate referrals, understanding insurance terms such as preferred provider service and complicated medical terminology makes things even more confusing. Here are three things to focus on to make the process simpler.
Find the right doctor for you
Ask your GP if they have any recommendations for who the best doctor is for your individual needs. Depending on your area there may be many different specialist doctors working in the same field and some have special interests in particular medical conditions. For instance, a gastroenterologist may have a special interest in a particular part of gastroenterology such as diverticulitis or irritable bowel syndrome. Your GP will know which of their specialist colleagues is particularly interested in your condition. As well as your GP you can ask friends and family if they've had any good experiences. If you're in any support groups for your problem you may find advice there about which doctors come highly recommended. Some specialists may have longer wait lists than others, so make sure the specialist you're referred to can see you in an appropriate time frame.
Consider your health insurance
If you have health insurance it's important to consider this, especially if you may need to be treated as an inpatient. Health insurance will generally contribute towards any inpatient treatment or procedures provided you have the right insurance and have met any waiting periods. Outpatient or clinic appointments will be out of pocket, though some should be covered by Medicare rebates. Health insurers have something called a preferred provider service, where doctors or allied health professionals have an agreement with the insurer to make sure patients can access rebates. This means getting a rebate for any inpatient treatment or procedure will be a smoother process and you may even be able to access discounted appointment rates. You can find a list of specialists who are part of the preferred provider service on your health insurer's website or by contacting them directly.
Understand what paperwork you need
To receive a Medicare rebate for your specialist appointment you'll need an up to date referral from another doctor who has seen you. If the referral comes from your GP it will be valid for at least twelve months, whereas if your referral comes from another specialist doctor it will be valid for only three months. A GP can also write an indefinite referral if your health problem is an ongoing one. It's best to make an appointment with your GP to discuss the reason for the referral and to make sure that all of the necessary paperwork is in place before your specialist appointment. When you make the appointment ask what other documentation you need to bring. Generally, you'll need your Medicare card, health insurance details and perhaps copies of any investigations you've had done previously. It's also a good idea to ask about appointment costs and find out if the specialist is part of your insurer's preferred provider service.
Finally, make sure to discuss any concerns about the process or your referral with your GP. They can check you have everything in place and help make the process as straightforward as possible.