The role of a haematologist
- Haematologists are specialist doctors who diagnose and treat all kinds of blood diseases.
- Many different health issues can affect the blood, from anaemias to cancers.
- Your haematologist may refer you for a range of medical tests, and prescribe treatments for your blood condition.
- How much you pay for a haematologist will depend on the type of care you receive and whether you have private health insurance.
What does a haematologist do?
A haematologist is a specialist doctor who treats conditions that affect the blood, and the body organs that make the blood.
A haematologist has completed at least 5 years of specialist training after becoming a doctor.
When do I see a haematologist?
Haematologists treat many different conditions that affect blood, including:
- leukaemia — a cancer that develops in the bone marrow
- myeloma — a type of cancer that affects some white blood cells
- Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma — cancers of the lymphatic system
- anaemia — a lack of red blood cells in the blood
- haemophilia — a genetic condition that causes abnormal bleeding
- thalassaemia — a genetic condition that affects red blood cells
- sickle cell disease — a genetic condition that affects the shape of red blood cells
- iron deficiency or overload (haemochromatosis)
Haematologists also treat people with blood clots or bone marrow disorders.
Haematologists can manage blood disease with a range of approaches, for example with bone marrow transplants or blood transfusions.
What should I expect during an appointment with a haematologist?
Your haematologist will begin with a discussion about your symptoms (if you have any) and your medical history. They may also ask you about any illnesses in your family. They will ask for details about any medicines you take and any allergies you have.
They will then examine you. Your haematologist will most likely examine your abdomen (tummy), and the lymph nodes in your neck, underarms, and groin. They may also look at your nails, hands, skin, hair, eyes and mouth.
The haematologist will then discuss the next steps, which may involve tests such as blood tests, x-rays and/or scans.
Your haematologist may be able to recommend treatment, or may ask you for a follow up visit to discuss test results, and to plan for future treatment or management.
What questions should I ask a haematologist?
Before you go to your first appointment, note down any questions you have. During the consultation, ask for clarification if you don’t understand what is being said.
ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.
How can I find a haematologist?
Your doctor will generally refer you to a haematologist if you need one. You can also use healthdirect’s online service finder to locate a haematologist in your local area.
FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.
Do I need a referral to see a haematologist?
It is important to get a referral from your doctor to see the haematologist. That way, your doctor can pass on useful information, and the haematologist can update your general practitioner with all their findings after your visit.
If you don’t have a referral, neither Medicare nor private health insurance will contribute to the cost of your care.
How much will a haematologist cost?
A haematologist's costs can vary a lot, depending on the type of care you receive; whether it’s in hospital, whether you have private health insurance, and on how much the haematologist charges.
Out of hospital care
If you see a haematologist in their rooms, then Medicare will cover:
- all of the costs if they bulkbill
- some of the costs if they don't bulkbill
You can't use private health insurance for out of hospital care.
Treatment in a public hospital using Medicare
If you are a public patient in a public hospital or clinic and use Medicare, it is free. Medicare will cover all your costs.
Treatment in any hospital using private health insurance
If you use private health insurance for treatment in either a public hospital or a private hospital or clinic, you will be charged by the haematologist and by the hospital. You might also be charged for diagnostic testing, such as pathology tests, x-rays and other forms of imaging (such as an MRI, PET or CT scan), and by other doctors you see. If you have private health insurance, it may cover some of these costs.
Asking about costs
It can be expensive to see specialists, such as haematologists.
Before you go for the first time, ask the haematologist or their staff about the costs. You can also ask what Medicare will cover.
If you plan to use private health insurance, you can also contact your health fund.
If the costs are too high, your options are:
- to ask the haematologist or their staff about a reduction
- to consider another haematologist or health service
- to talk to your GP about options such as a different type of treatment
Resources and support
These organisations provide information about specific health conditions, which might involve a referral to a haematologist:
- The Cancer Council has information about leukaemias, lymphomas and myeloma.
- The Leukaemia Foundation has information about leukaemia.
- The Haemophilia Foundation Australia has information about haemophilia and von Willebrand disease.
- The Thalassaemia Society of NSW has more information on thalassaemia.
- Visit the Cancer Council Australia website to find support groups.
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Last reviewed: January 2023