Primary Care Physician

What Is a Primary Care Physician?

A primary care physician is a doctor who provides the first line of contact and treatment for a health concern. They also provide continuing care and treatment of medical conditions that are already verified. Developing and maintaining a trusted, long-term relationship with your primary care physician is key to a healthy life.

Primary Care Physician’s Role

Maintaining your health is important, and you need a doctor who can provide you with the preventive care you need. Even when you feel fine, it’s recommended that you get checkups and health screenings to assess your overall condition. This is the job of your primary care physician. 

When you get sick or develop symptoms of a medical condition, the first place to go for medical treatment is your primary care physician. Your primary doctor can diagnose and treat most common ailments as well as provide ongoing care for chronic illnesses. 

Primary Care Physician vs. Specialist

Your primary care physician is trained to diagnose and treat a variety of medical conditions. If your condition is beyond their scope of expertise, they will recommend that you see a specialist. Specialists are doctors who have received advanced training and medical degrees in a specific branch of medicine. You usually only arrive at a specialist by a referral from your primary doctor.

Quality of Care

The quality of care you receive from a primary physician is equivalent to a specialist. The difference is that the specialist has more experience with the specific disease or condition. Often, a primary care physician can be very experienced in treating your specific condition, so you won't need a specialist. 

When your primary doctor can’t give you the treatment you need, he or she will refer you to a specialist so that you will receive the type of care required for your specific health situation. 

When Do You See Each?

Make an appointment with your primary physician for regular visits and screenings, such as annual check ups or preventive services. Your doctor will make the decision, based on your condition, to send you to a specialist if need be.  Some plans require you to get a referral from your primary care physician before seeing a specialist.

How to Find the Right Primary Care Physician

Most health insurance plans have a network of doctors and hospitals in your area for you to choose from. Asking for referrals from friends and family is also a great way to find a trusted doctor. Try choosing one who is conveniently located to your home or place of work. 

When looking for the right doctor, nothing compares to an office visit and meeting him or her face-to-face. Talk to the doctor about medications you take to see if you are on the same page with managing any chronic health conditions you have. Find someone who makes you feel comfortable so that you can maintain a long-term relationship.