So your child needs to go to a specialist. What happens next?

It happens. Your child shows signs or symptoms that might be a more serious problem and their primary care provider recommends they see a specialist – a doctor who has more training in the specific area of your child’s illness – to see whether your child’s symptoms are harmless or need more attention.

The next steps can be confusing and scary for parents. When a primary care provider refers a child to a specialist, someone still needs to find the specialist, make sure the specialist accepts the patient’s insurance, make sure the specialist has the child’s medical record, and set up an appointment. Providers and practices handle specialist referrals differently, and parents may have different expectations of their responsibilities and their provider’s responsibilities in the referral process.

We asked a national sample of parents for their input on the process of specialist referrals for their children and about their perspectives on the most important characteristics of specialists. The results of this National Poll on Children’s Health will be released next week. See the results as soon as they’re published by signing up for our mailing list.