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Medical Specialists

Topic Overview

Choosing a doctor or another type of health professional to help with your health care is very important. Never before have people had so many kinds of doctors and other health professionals to choose from. The relationship you have with your health professional greatly influences the health decisions you make and, ultimately, your health.

Talk with your health professional about being a partner in your health decisions. He or she will most likely support your desire to take an active role in your health care.

Think about these important things when you are choosing a health professional:

  • Is the health professional well-trained and experienced?
  • Is the health professional board-certified?
  • Will the health professional be available when needed?
  • Will the health professional work in partnership with you?
  • Does your health plan provide coverage for this service?

This topic lists many of the specialties and subspecialties of medical doctors. It also provides listings for other types of health professionals you may see for your health needs. Each listing includes a description of the specialty and information about why you might choose that type of health professional.

Medical Specialists

Medical specialists are doctors who have completed advanced education and clinical training in a specific area of medicine (their specialty area). Examples of medical specialists include the following:

Preparing for Your Appointment

Before the visit

Collect the following information before your visit. Take it with you to your appointment.

  • Gather any medical records for previous treatment for the same or a similar problem.
  • Make a list of all prescription and nonprescription medicines you are taking.

During the visit

  • State your main problem or reason for your visit.
  • Describe your symptoms.
  • Describe your past experiences with this problem.
  • State how this problem is affecting your life.

After the visit

Write down:

  • What your health professional thinks the problem might be.
  • What you might expect to happen next.
  • What you can do to manage your problem at home.

Questions to ask about medicines, tests, and treatments

  • What is the name of the medicine, test, or treatment?
  • Why is it needed?
  • What are the risks?
  • What are potential side effects?
  • Are there alternatives?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Is the cost of the medicine covered by my insurance?
  • What will happen if I decide not to have treatment?
  • How do I take this medicine?
  • How will this medicine react with other medicines I am taking?
  • How do I prepare for each test or treatment?

Questions to ask at the end of your visit

  • When should I return for another visit?
  • When will test results be available?
    • Should I contact you or will you contact me?
    • Be sure to ask for copies of any test results.
  • Are there any danger signs that I need to look for?
  • What else do I need to know?

For more information, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

Other Places To Get Help

Organization

American Board of Medical Specialties
220 North LaSalle Street
Suite 1500
Chicago, IL  60601
Phone: 1-866-ASK-ABMS (1-866-275-2267) toll-free
(312) 436-2600
Web Address: www.abms.org
 

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) is the umbrella organization for the 24 approved medical specialty boards in the United States. The ABMS provides information to the public concerning issues involving specialization and certification in medicine. This organization can help you verify whether your doctor is board-certified.


References

Other Works Consulted

  • Anspaugh DJ, et al. (2011). Becoming a responsible health care consumer. In Wellness: Concepts and Applications, 8th ed., pp. 453–484. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Last Revised November 19, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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