You probably had your first encounter with a primary doctor as a child, when your parents would take you to the same doctor they also saw for their own health concerns. A primary care physician (PCP), sometimes called the family doctor, generally practices preventive medicine, and looks after the overall health of individuals and families on a regular basis. However, if you have been suffering some symptoms, and several visits to your PCP have not yielded a diagnosis, this most likely warrants the attention of a specialist.
When a patient has been found to have a more complex illness, it is normal for the PCP to refer him to a specialist. In a report from the Archives of Internal Medicine, physicians’ referral to specialists have greatly increased from 4.8% to 9.3% between 1999 and 2009. The process of necessary referrals is significant for a patient’s health, and failure to do so may put the physician at risk of liability.