Should I Select a Primary Care Provider or a Specialist?

When choosing the right doctor for you, it is important to consider whether a primary care provider or a specialist is more appropriate. Nebraska Medicine wants to help you find the physician that is right for you to ensure you are receiving the highest quality care in the right setting.

Primary Care Provider

Many insurance plans require you to have a primary care provider. Also, Nebraska Medicine and other leading medical institutions across the country are moving to the Patient-Centered Medical Home Model of care. Under this model, within one appointment your doctor may introduce a pharmacist, dietitian, behavioral health specialist, or a social worker, all of whom work as a team.

Your primary care team can help:

  • Review and renew your prescription medications
  • Review and interpret your lab test results
  • Arrange for annual exams, flu shots and other preventative screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies
  • See you for non-emergent symptoms of illness
  • Affirm a condition you believe you have from talking to other sources (friends, family, online) and recommend evidence-based treatment
  • Give you a referral to a specialist

In many cases, conditions like Pain, Ear Infections and Heart Care should be first diagnosed and managed by a primary care provider, then referred to a specialist as appropriate.

Doctors who completed training in family medicine, internal medicine, or geriatrics are all generally considered primary care providers.

  • Search for a family medicine provider - family medicine offers continuing, comprehensive health care for the individuals and family, from birth to the elderly. It also encompasses both men and women, each organ system and every disease.
  • Search for an internal medicine provider - internal medicine applies scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the care of adults across the spectrum. They tend to specialize in the management of complex illness.
  • Search for a geriatrics provider - geriatrics focuses on health care of elderly people. It aims to promote health by preventing and treating diseases and disabilities in older adults.

Search for a primary care provider

Specialist Physicians

Examples of specialists include various types of surgeons, oncologists and cardiologists. Oftentimes connecting with your primary care provider is the best first step for evaluation and referral onto a specialist as needed. However, there are definitely situations where you should seek specialist care, such as:

  • You are seeking a second opinion
  • Your primary care provider has encouraged you to seek specialist care
  • You have complications or complexities to your condition that your current specialist cannot seem to solve
  • You have a rare condition, and you would like to see someone who has more experience caring for people with that condition

Ultimately, when you make an appointment, you will be asked to describe the reason for your visit and the schedulers will help guide you appropriately.

Search for a specialist