How can I find a medical specialist?

Your family doctor also called a general practitioner (GP), is usually able to diagnose and treat most medical concerns. When something goes beyond their ability, they will refer you to a specialist.

In Ontario, if you need to see a medical specialist, your health care provider will need to make a referral. Usually, your doctor’s office will take care of the referral and often book the appointment for you. If the process is different, they will let you know.

You can often ask for a specialist by name or ask for one that speaks your language if there are any. If you have no special requirements your doctor will often select a specialist that is close to your home or their office.

In Ontario, there are more than 40 different specialties which include more than 33,000 doctors who provide care to people in Ontario.

Some examples of medical specialties are:

  • Addiction Medicine
  • Allergy and Clinical Immunology
  • Cardiology
  • Chronic Pain
  • Dermatology
  • Endocrinology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Neurology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Opthalmology
  • Otolaryngology (often called ENT)
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychiatry
  • Reproductive Biology
  • Respiratory Disease
  • Rheumatology
  • Urology

Do I have to pay for a medical specialist appointment?

When your health care provider is making the referral, there will be no costs for any appointments that are medically necessary.

If you are asking for a referral for an elective procedure there may be a fee that will be explained to you before making the appointment.

Will I need to have a referral for every appointment?

Once you see the medical specialist, you will decide together if you should keep seeing them or if you only needed one consultation. Many medical specialists will allow you to book appointments directly with their office if you have been referred within the last year. If it has been more than a year you may need to ask for a new referral from your health care provider. The specialist’s office will let you know.

Can I ask for a second opinion?

Yes, within reason you are always welcome to ask your health care provider to refer you to a different specialist. You are allowed to ask for a second opinion if you feel the first referral missed something important, was careless with reviewing your medical history or was rude or dismissed your concerns or questions.

For More Information

  • Doctor Search - An online database that allows you to search for a doctor in your area who speaks your language or who specializes in an area of medicine. It is run by the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Ontario.
  • Health Care Connect - This program refers you to a local family health care provider that is accepting new patients. You need to have OHIP to use this service. It is run by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
  • Medical Specialties - Learn about the specialties doctors practise in Ontario from the Ontario Medical Association (OMA).
Last updated: August 24, 2023 4001222