Do You Need a Referral To See a Gastroenterologist?
 Do You Need a Referral To See a Gastroenterologist?

Do I Need A Referral To See a Gastroenterologist?

When you think something’s wrong, it can be your first instinct to book an appointment with a specialist. And when it comes to matters of the gastrointestinal tract, you’re going to want those resolved sooner rather than later. Keep reading to understand in detail the answer to the question, “do you have to have a referral to see a gastroenterologist?” and how to prepare for that visit. 

What is a Gastroenterologist?

If you’ve been wondering, “do I need a referral for a gastroenterologist?”, it helps to understand exactly what a gastroenterologist is and what they can help with. Gastroenterologists specialize in the gastrointestinal tract, specifically from the esophagus to the rectum. They help treat conditions, pain, and diseases of the digestive system, including:

  • Celiac disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Heartburn
  • Cancer
  • Pancreatitis 
  • Hemorrhoids 
  • Gallbladder disease 
  • Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • And more 

Gastroenterologists can help with everything from treating unpleasant or uncomfortable symptoms to cancer screening and treatment.

When You Should Visit a Gastroenterologist

It can be tempting to go right to the experts the second you experience a symptom related to digestion or your gastrointestinal tract. But you may not necessarily need a gastroenterologist — many issues can be properly treated by your primary care physician, which means you can skip the costly and time consuming specialist visit. 

However, there are definitely times when a gastroenterologist is needed, and these can include:

  • Routine screenings/tests, including colon cancer prevention
  • Recurring stomach pain or bloating
  • Persistent heartburn
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Persistent change in your bowel habits ( frequency or stool type)
  • Rectal bleeding 
  • Other symptoms related to digestion and excretion that are unusual for you 


Your first step will be to visit your primary care physician, who can then determine if you should visit a gastroenterologist.

Do You Need a Referral to Go to a Gastroenterologist?

The short answer is yes. While you can sometimes book an appointment directly with a gastroenterologist, it’s better to get a referral first. Without one, your insurance may not cover the appointment or treatment. Seeing your doctor first might also help you get seen faster and treated more quickly, especially if your doctor determines it’s something serious. You may also get treated directly by your doctor, so you can get relief sooner.

Preparing For Your Gastroenterologist Visit

A visit with a gastroenterologist can be intimate to say the least, so it helps to know what’s likely to happen so you can feel more prepared. First off, you’ll want to reassure yourself that a gastroenterologist speaks to patients about their bodily functions all day long, and that your symptoms are likely nothing they haven’t heard already that week, or even that day. 

Once you feel less squeamish, you’ll want to ensure your medical history is up to date and in order and that you bring any records/paperwork you think might be helpful for the specialist to accurately diagnose and treat you. 

Your first visit will typically involve discussing your symptoms, a physical exam, and any diagnostic tests the specialist may need. You’ll likely have follow up visits for treatment and monitoring.

Final Words

The referral process helps ensure specialists like gastroenterologists aren’t overwhelmed by patients that could easily be treated by their primary care physician, and gives them time to properly treat patients that truly need a gastroenterologist. Following the referral process will ensure you get the care you need in a timely manner, while following the requirements of your insurance. 

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