Why You Should Have a Primary Care Physician

A primary care physician, or PCP, is your neighborhood doctor, wellness coach and often the first person to call when you have a problem. Primary care providers evaluate and treat common medical problems. They also provide education, develop treatment plans and connect you to specialists for additional services.

Having a primary care provider gives you a continuity of care. PCPs track your medical history, chronic conditions, past medical procedures and diagnostic tests. They also help you understand the need for preventative screens and well visits. And when a health crisis arises, PCPs can expedite your medical care and provide referrals to specialists. In short, your primary care provider is the coordinator of your health care.

Types of Primary Care Physicians

Family medicine considers the total health of the individual and family. After completing medical school and a three-year residency program, physicians can diagnose and treat a wide variety of conditions. Family medicine physicians place a strong emphasis on health, mental wellness and preventative services.

Internal medicine physicians provide comprehensive acute and chronic care to adults. Specialists in internal medicine, or internists, complete medical school and a three-year residency program and sometimes pursue a two to three year fellowship in an area of interest. Internists focus on the management of chronic, complex or severe illness in addition to disease prevention and wellness.

Pediatrics is an area of medicine that focuses on the medical care of infants, children and adolescents. After completing medical school, pediatricians participate in a three-year residency program and often complete a specialty fellowship. A pediatrician provides preventative health care for healthy children and medical attention for children who are acutely or chronically ill. In addition to the physical well-being of children, pediatricians evaluate behavioral difficulties and developmental disorders.