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Who is a primary care physician?

A primary care physician (PCP) is a healthcare provider who serves as the first point of contact for patients seeking medical care. They are typically trained in family medicine, internal medicine, or pediatrics. PCPs provide comprehensive healthcare services, including preventive care, diagnosis, and treatment of common illnesses and injuries, and management of chronic conditions.

How to find a primary care doctor?

To find a primary care doctor, you can consider the following steps:

  • Check out PreferredMD’s list of primary care physicians and their reviews.
  • Ask for recommendations from friends, family, or colleagues.
  • Check with your health insurance provider for a list of in-network primary care physicians.
  • Research local medical practices or clinics and read patient reviews.

Consider factors such as location, office hours, and the doctor's specialization to find a good fit for your needs.

What services can I expect from a primary care physician?

Primary care physicians offer a wide range of services, including:

  • Routine check-ups and physical examinations
  • Diagnosis and treatment of common illnesses and injuries
  • Preventive care and health screenings
  • Vaccinations
  • Management of chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma
  • Referrals to specialists when necessary
  • Health counseling and education
  • Coordination of care with other healthcare providers

Can a primary care physician treat chronic conditions?

Yes, primary care physicians are trained to treat and manage chronic conditions. They play a crucial role in the ongoing care of patients with conditions like diabetes, hypertension, asthma, arthritis, and others. Primary care physicians provide regular monitoring, prescribe medications, offer lifestyle recommendations, and coordinate with specialists to ensure comprehensive care for chronic conditions.

What kind of physician should be my primary care doctor?

Family doctors, internists or general practitioners, OB-GYNs, and pediatricians are all considered primary care physicians (PCP). 

You may want to choose a PCP who is trained to deal with a particular area of care. Board certification is an extra step doctors can take to verify that they are experts in a particular field. The American Board of Medical Specialties maintains a searchable database of board-certified doctors called Certification Matters. In addition, you should try to get references, make sure the office is convenient, the staff is friendly and professional, and that the physician accepts your insurance.

Can a specialist be my primary care physician?

A primary care physician is usually your first medical contact. PCPs help coordinate health care and ensure patients are up-to-date with check-ups, tests, and immunizations. PCPs play a special role in coordinating patient care. 

There is some debate among physicians whether specialists stay updated on a wide range of primary care topics that are beyond their specific expertise. Certain studies suggest that while health outcomes might be comparable, the expenses related to outpatient visits, hospitalizations, and seeing a specialist are generally higher compared to those associated with a primary care physician.

What does a routine physical exam entail?

A routine physical exam measures important vital signs such as temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. Your doctor will evaluate your body using observation, palpitation, percussion, and auscultation (listening to your heart, lungs with a stethoscope). Imaging studies may include X-rays, computer-tomography (CT), magnetic resonance (MRI) scans, and an electrocardiogram (EKG). Common laboratory tests may include a blood test, a urine specimen, and stool and sputum cultures.