Nova Scotia·Health Hacks

If you've been referred to a specialist, here's what you need to know

A health-care consultant explains how to advocate for yourself when you get referred to a specialist.

Health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton shares her health hacks with CBC's Information Morning

If your family doctor is referring you to a specialist, ask them how long it should take to hear about an appointment. Will it be a few weeks or a month, or longer? (Shutterstock)

Seeing a specialist can be a daunting. After all, it usually indicates the need for help beyond what a family doctor is able to provide.

But a Halifax health-care consultant says there are a few easy ways to increase peace of mind and improve treatment.

Number one: Ask for the name of the specialist and their phone number. 

"The first question is so obvious, but it's one that most people forget to ask completely because everything just becomes a blur of information and it goes in one ear and out the other," Mary Jane Hampton told CBC's Information Morning Nova Scotia.


Having the specialist's contact info will allow you to follow up if necessary, particularly since paperwork can get lost.

"You really need to be your own best advocate," Hampton said.

The second question to the family doctor should be how long it should take to hear about an appointment with the specialist. Will it be a few weeks or a month, or longer?

Hampton said knowing when to expect an appointment is a good idea. She said either the person or their doctor should research where in the province wait times are shortest, especially if the person is able to travel.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority allows for checking wait times online for different doctors and procedures.

Health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton explains what to do when what ails you is beyond the scope of a family doctor. (Robert Short/CBC)

"It's your right as a Nova Scotian to access services wherever they're provided," Hampton said. "If you find that there is a wait list that is shorter somewhere else, don't be ashamed to ask."

Hampton said another way to advocate for yourself is to plan health care on "parallel tracks." Consulting your family doctor about choices can help save time.

If there are multiple options for treatment, it might help to schedule appointments with different kinds of specialists. That way if one type of treatment isn't appropriate, the process has begun to pursue a second course of treatment.

Hampton also suggests calling to check for cancellations or openings.

"If you're not the kind of person who is comfortable just sitting back and letting things take their course, that is a way that you can take charge of your own journey in the health system."

With files from CBC's Information Morning Nova Scotia