Your PCP’s Role
Your primary care physician is your go-to doctor for everything related to your health – from getting annual physicals to getting an immunization before flu season. The PCP you choose will be the doctor you’ll visit for most of your care and with whom you’ll discuss your health concerns and questions. Your PCP will handle:
- Routine care, like regular physical exams and health-screening tests.
- Care for non-emergency problems, like a cough that isn’t getting better or a minor injury.
- Referral decisions. If your PCP thinks you need to see a specialist (for example, a cardiologist or neurologist) or have a diagnostic procedure, he or she will request a referral.
- Management of chronic conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure, or acid reflux.
- Care coordination if you develop complicated medical problems, need to see multiple specialists, or are hospitalized. In these situations, your PCP will be part of a care team that will make sure everyone is working together to provide the care you need, when you need it.
There are a variety of primary care physicians who have expertise in different areas of your health. It’s important to find the right type of physician for your individual health needs.
Types of PCPs
Specializing in children, pediatricians focus their practices solely on caring for infants and children, guiding and supporting them through immunizations, illnesses and injuries until they reach the end of adolescence, somewhere between the ages of 14 and 18.
Family medicine physician
Physicians who specialize in family medicine are the generalists of medicine, trained to treat the entire family, from newborns to grandparents. They receive some training in both pediatrics and obstetrics (women’s health) during their education and can provide routine care for patients of all ages.
Internal medicine physician
Specializing in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases in adults, internal medicine physicians are vital in helping patients manage chronic conditions. An internal medicine physician may choose to remain a generalist, or to further specialize in a wide variety of sub-specialties ranging from cardiology to sleep and sports medicine.
Many women of child-bearing age rely on their OB-GYN for routine screenings and care and, as such, receive the majority of their primary care through a physician who specializes in fertility, childbirth and female health issues.