Navigating the Healthcare System Can Be a Very Difficult Task. There Are So Many Factors to Consider.

Couple Running - No Pain

  • Do I need to see a specialist?
  • If so, what type of specialist?
  • What qualifications does the physician have?
  • Is there another physician of the same or different specialty from whom I can seek another medical opinion?

One should almost always start with their primary care physician or PCP. Generally, the PCP can initiate treatment including diagnostic testing as needed. If specialty treatment is required, your PCP can refer you to the appropriate specialist.

However, in today’s medical world, the specialist chosen by your PCP may be based on factors not aligned with your best interests. For instance, if your PCP is employed by a hospital or health network, there may be financial or administrative incentives to refer to a specialist within the same hospital or network, not necessarily to the most qualified or skilled specialist. Or the PCP may be simply unaware of other specialists available in your community.

There Are Several Questions to Consider when Choosing a Physician Specialist for Pain Care.

  • Is the specialist board-certified or subspecialty certified?
  • Are they fellowship-trained?
  • How often have they treated your condition?

Board-certification represents a minimum standard or level of achievement in medical training and aptitude. To maintain board-certification, the physician must continue medical education at a certain threshold determined by their certifying board. Fellowship training represents additional sub-specialty clinical education in a formal setting. For example, an orthopedic surgeon may do an additional year of fellowship training in joint replacement surgery over and above the residency training needed to become a general orthopedist. Therefore, one would expect that surgeon to have more expertise and experience in performing joint replacement surgery than the general orthopedist.

Some physicians actively instruct other physicians in postgraduate training programs such as residencies, fellowships or national medical societies. These doctors are generally well-respected by their physician colleagues for their superior skill sets and knowledge. These physicians will have access to the most advanced treatments and research.

The internet allows the patient to investigate the physician to whom they have been referred. You can start with a search engine such as Google® or Bing®. There are online reputation websites as well such as However, use caution with these websites since they publish patient-generated reviews and ratings. These reviews and websites can be manipulated to promote or degrade a physician’s reputation. Additionally, the information may be in-accurate.  So, you may want to check several sites or sources including the physician’s website.

Dr Scott Naftulin, and NERA Spine, Sports & Pain Medicine, strive to provide the highest quality specialty physician pain care. If deemed necessary, we will refer you to the most appropriate medical provider. Since we are a private group, our decisions are not guided by the potential non-medical biases described above.