Can general doctors prescribe medicine?

Yes. General doctors can prescribe medicines. They can also refer you to nurses or other health professionals for advice.

General doctors are different from doctors who are specialists, such as rheumatologists or dermatologists (who treat specific conditions). General doctors can prescribe medicines and provide advice and monitoring.

What specialities are there?

Different health professionals have different specialities. To find out more about a job, you can ask the person you’re talking to. They might also know more about the area.

Rheumatologists

Rheumatologists focus on treating arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. They can prescribe medicines. They have special training in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases.

Dermatologists

Dermatologists often treat skin conditions. They can prescribe medicines.

Oncologists

Oncologists are doctors who specialize in treating cancer. They can prescribe medicines. They also often treat other diseases that affect the immune system.

Allergists

Allergists focus on treating allergic conditions. They can prescribe medicines.

Clinical nurse specialists

Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) focus on treating health conditions. They can prescribe medicines. They also provide other health care services.

What qualifications do these doctors have?

All doctors must be board-certified. This means they have passed an exam that’s approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).

The board consists of people who have completed a rigorous training program. They look at more than 900 different questions. Doctors can take the exam in person or online.

Doctors must also be licensed. They can be licensed in the state they practice in.

The ABMS also gives a list of the qualifications that a doctor needs to meet to practice.

These include:

  • Completing a medical school that’s accredited by the ABMS
  • Passing an exam, which is approved by the ABMS
  • Maintaining a current license
  • Meeting other requirements, which usually include a current staff position and an active license

How to find the right doctor?

Finding a doctor is important for your health.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Ask the doctor if they’re a rheumatologist. Ask if they’re board certified.
  • Ask if they work with rheumatologists.
  • Ask if they have experience treating rheumatologists.
  • Ask if they’re able to prescribe medicines.
  • Ask what their specialty is.
  • Ask what kind of training they have.
  • Ask what their salary is.
  • Ask if they have any experience with your condition.
  • Ask if they’re willing to take more time to talk to you.
  • Ask what your condition is.

The American College of Rheumatology has a list of questions to ask your doctor.

How much do they charge?

The price you’ll pay for your doctor depends on a few things.

  • How much training they have. Doctors with more training might cost more.
  • Where you live. Some doctors may charge more in expensive cities.
  • Whether or not your insurance covers you.
  • Your health. Some doctors may charge more for their services if you have a chronic condition.

For example, a rheumatologist with a master’s degree may charge more.

If you’re not sure how much to expect, try talking to a few doctors.

What insurance do they accept?

If your health insurance plan doesn’t cover a particular doctor, they may charge you more.

You may also be charged more if you’re seeing a doctor who’s in the same health plan as you.

You should check to see if your insurance plan covers your doctor before you see them.

If you don’t have insurance, you can find out if your doctor accepts your insurance plan by calling your insurance company.

It may take a few days or weeks for your insurance company to tell you. If you don’t hear back, you can find out more information about how to get coverage for your doctor.

What about follow-up appointments?

Follow-up visits can be important for your health.

If your doctor believes your condition is getting worse, they may ask you to come back in a few months. Or they may ask you to come back if your condition gets worse.

Ask your doctor if they have any follow-up appointments you need to keep.

What are their office hours?

Ask your doctor if they have office hours.

You can also ask friends or family if they know of any doctors that work in your area.

Can you see them at home?

Many doctors are happy to see you at home. You can ask them if you can see them at home.

If they say you can’t see them at home, you might be able to see them in their office. You can ask them if they have any policies in place for this.

You may also be able to find out if there are any home telehealth services.

Do they know about your condition?

Ask your doctor what they know about your condition. For example, you may be able to talk to them about a diagnosis from another doctor.

If you have a chronic condition, you might not always see your doctor. Ask your doctor if you can see them in-person or by telephone.

What if you need a second opinion?

You might need a second opinion.

If you’re having a hard time finding a doctor, you might want to ask another doctor what they know about your condition.

You can also ask another doctor to write a report for you. They’ll take your health history, review your symptoms, and write a diagnosis.

The report will provide more information about your condition.

You should talk to a doctor before deciding to get a second opinion.

What if you need to see a specialist?

If you need to see a specialist, you can choose one of these options:

  • They might recommend you see a rheumatologist.
  • They might recommend you see an allergist.
  • They might recommend you see an oncologist.

You can also ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist.

What are the costs?

Your costs will depend on a few things.

  • What kind of doctor you choose. Some doctors charge more for rheumatologists.
  • What your insurance covers.
  • What your insurance plan covers.

If you have insurance, see if your insurance has a policy for out-of-network costs.

If you don’t have insurance, you can still get care.

What kind of appointments do they need?

Ask your doctor what kind of appointments you need.

For example, you might need an appointment every month. Or you might need an appointment every few months.

You should ask how long the appointments take. For example, you might be able to see your doctor an hour or two each time instead of a day.

What kind of exam do they need?

Ask your doctors what kind of exam they need.

For example, they may need a physical exam, a complete blood count, or a blood test.

What happens during the exam?

Ask your doctors how long the exam is and what happens during the exam.

For example, some doctors ask you to do a physical exam. Others might ask for a complete blood count or a blood test.

How do they treat your condition?

Ask your doctors about how they treat your condition. For example, they might prescribe medicine, do a procedure, or do an ultrasound.

What side effects can they cause?

Ask your doctors about any possible side effects of their medication.

For example, they might cause nausea, skin rash, or dizziness.

If you’re having side effects, tell your doctor right away.

What kind of follow-up will they give me?

Ask your rheumatologist if they have a way to check your symptoms.

Or ask them if you can contact them if you have any symptoms.

Ask them to use an electronic medical record system so you can share your symptoms.

These systems can help them see how well your treatment is working.

What kind of follow-up will they recommend?

Ask your rheumatologist if they have a way to check your symptoms. Or ask them if you can contact them if you have any symptoms.

Ask them to use an electronic medical record system so you can share your symptoms. These systems can help them see how well your treatment is working.

What kind of plan do they recommend?

Ask your rheumatologist if they have a way to check your symptoms or a plan for follow-up. Or ask them if you can contact them if you have any symptoms.

Ask them to use an electronic medical record system to share your symptoms.

What’s the cost?

The cost will depend on your insurance.

Ask your insurer what the costs will be.

How often will they check my progress?

Ask your rheumatologist how often they check your symptoms.

For example, you might be able to see a doctor once a month instead of every few months.

Takeaway

Doctors have different specialties. You can ask if they have any training in your particular area. If they do, they may charge more.

If you’re not sure how much you should expect, talk to several doctors. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions. They shouldn’t be afraid to answer them.

You can find a doctor near you using the Healthline Find a Doctor tool.

Asking other people for advice is also a good idea. Ask your family, friends, and co-workers for advice.

The doctor you’re going to see should be a good fit for you. They should also be willing to take time to talk to you

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