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Primary care physician
Primary care provider

Does the provider use email?
Is the office staff friendly and helpful?
Is the office good about returning calls?
Are the office hours convenient to your schedule?
How easy is it to reach the provider?
Do you prefer a provider whose communication style is friendly and warm, or more formal?
Do you prefer a provider focused on disease treatment, or wellness and prevention?
Does the provider have a conservative or aggressive approach to treatment?
Does the provider order a lot of tests?
Does the provider refer to other specialists frequently or infrequently?
What do colleagues and patients say about the provider?
Does the provider invite you to be involved in your care? Does the provider view your patient-doctor relationship as a true partnership?

What is a Primary Care Physician?
How can you find a Primary Care Physician?
Why should you choose a Primary Care Physician?

What is a Primary Care Doctor?

Which doctors qualify as Primary Care Physicians?

There are 24 specialties in medicine but typically only three qualify as PCPs. Although some women may think their Obstetrician/Gynecologist qualifies as a PCP, in most cases only doctors with the following three specialties are considered PCPs:
•Family Practice or General Practice: A family practitioner is qualified to care for the entire family. A family practitioner can be board-certified and have training in a variety of subjects including Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, Internal Medicine and Psychiatry. This specialty was more common in years past but can still be found to treat the entire family.

•Internal Medicine: An internist can diagnose and treat disease with medicine. An internist is not a surgeon. There are several sub-specialties an internist can have, including: specializing in a particular organ, like the lungs or the kidneys, a particular disease, like diabetes, or a particular age group, like the elderly.

•Pediatrics: A pediatrician specializes in the overall well-being of children. Most pediatricians treat children from birth until adolescence or about 14 years old. Pediatricians can have sub-specialties such as surgery or pediatric cardiology.

Primary Care

In defining primary care, it is necessary to describe the nature of services provided to patients, as well as to identify who are the primary care providers. The domain of primary care includes the primary care physician, other physicians who include some primary care services in their practices, and some non-physician providers. However, central to the concept of primary care is the patient. Therefore, such definitions are incomplete without including a description of the primary care practice.

The following five definitions relating to primary care should be taken together. They describe the care provided to the patient, the system of providing such care, the types of physicians whose role in the system is to provide primary care, and the role of other physicians, and non-physicians, in providing such care. Taken together they form a framework within which patients will have access to efficient and effective primary care services of the highest quality.

Definition #1 - Primary Care

Primary care is that care provided by physicians specifically trained for and skilled in comprehensive first contact and continuing care for persons with any undiagnosed sign, symptom, or health concern (the "undifferentiated" patient) not limited by problem origin (biological, behavioral, or social), organ system, or diagnosis.

Primary care includes health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, counseling, patient education, diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses in a variety of health care settings (e.g., office, inpatient, critical care, long-term care, home care, day care, etc.). Primary care is performed and managed by a personal physician often collaborating with other health professionals, and utilizing consultation or referral as appropriate.

Primary care provides patient advocacy in the health care system to accomplish cost-effective care by coordination of health care services. Primary care promotes effective communication with patients and encourages the role of the patient as a partner in health care.

Definition #2 - Primary Care Practice

A primary care practice serves as the patient's first point of entry into the health care system and as the continuing focal point for all needed health care services. Primary care practices provide patients with ready access to their own personal physician, or to an established back-up physician when the primary physician is not available.

Primary care practices provide health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, counseling, patient education, diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses in a variety of health care settings (e.g., office, inpatient, critical care, long-term care, home care, day care, etc.).

Primary care practices are organized to meet the needs of patients with undifferentiated problems, with the vast majority of patient concerns and needs being cared for in the primary care practice itself. Primary care practices are generally located in the community of the patients, thereby facilitating access to health care while maintaining a wide variety of specialty and institutional consultative and referral relationships for specific care needs. The structure of the primary care practice may include a team of physicians and non-physician health professionals.

Definition #3 - Primary Care Physician

A primary care physician is a generalist physician who provides definitive care to the undifferentiated patient at the point of first contact and takes continuing responsibility for providing the patient's care. Such a physician must be specifically trained to provide primary care services.

Primary care physicians devote the majority of their practice to providing primary care services to a defined population of patients. The style of primary care practice is such that the personal primary care physician serves as the entry point for substantially all of the patient's medical and health care needs - not limited by problem origin, organ system, or diagnosis. Primary care physicians are advocates for the patient in coordinating the use of the entire health care system to benefit the patient.

Definition #4 - Non-Primary Care Physicians Providing Primary Care Services

Physicians who are not trained in the primary care specialties of family medicine, general internal medicine, or general pediatrics may sometimes provide patient care services that are usually delivered by primary care physicians. These physicians may focus on specific patient care needs related to prevention, health maintenance, acute care, chronic care or rehabilitation. These physicians, however, do not offer these services within the context of comprehensive, first contact and continuing care.

The contributions of physicians who deliver some services usually found within the scope of primary care practice may be important to specific patient needs. However, the absence of a full scope of training in primary care requires that these individuals work in close consultation with fully-trained, primary care physicians. An effective system of primary care may utilize these physicians as members of the health care team with a primary care physician maintaining responsibility for the function of the health care team and the comprehensive, ongoing health care of the patient.

Definition #5 - Non-Physician Primary Care Providers There are providers of health care other than physicians who render some primary care services. Such providers may include nurse practitioners, physician assistants and some other health care providers.

These providers of primary care may meet the needs of specific patients. They should provide these services in collaborative teams in which the ultimate responsibility for the patient resides with the primary care physician.

Primary care physician

A primary care physician, or PCP, is a physician who provides both the first contact for a person with an undiagnosed health concern as well as continuing care of varied medical conditions, not limited by cause, organ system, or diagnosis.

All physicians first complete medical school (MD, MBBS, or DO). To become primary care physicians, medical school graduates then undertake postgraduate training in primary care programs, such as family medicine (also called family practice or general practice in some countries), pediatrics or internal medicine. Some HMOs consider gynecologists as PCPs for the care of women, and have allowed certain subspecialists to assume PCP responsibilities for selected patient types, such as allergists caring for people with asthma and nephrologists acting as PCPs for patients on kidney dialysis.

Emergency physicians are sometimes counted as primary care physicians. Emergency physicians see many primary care cases, but in contrast to family physicians, pediatricians and internists, are trained and organized to focus on episodic care, acute intervention, stabilization, and discharge or transfer or referral to definitive care, with less of a focus on chronic conditions and limited provision for continuing care.

What is a Primary Care Doctor?

Trained in every major area of medicine, primary care doctors serve as the primary source of your health care throughout life.

Family Medicine

Family medicine doctors provide continuing comprehensive primary care to your whole family. They see patients of all ages.

Internal Medicine

Internal medicine doctors, internists, specialize in the study, diagnosis and treatment of non-surgical diseases in adult patients. An internist is trained to diagnose and treat complex illnesses, as well as manage the prevention of illness. Some internists, geriatricians, specialize in the health-care needs of the elderly.

Internal Medicine/Pediatrics (IM/Peds)

Doctors who specialize in internal medicine and pediatrics have completed a combined residency program in internal medicine and pediatrics. They are able to provide preventive care as well as care for the complex medical problems of adults and children.

Obstetrics and Gynecology
v General obstetricians and gynecologists specialize in providing health care to women. Obstetricians care for the woman before, during and after a pregnancy, while gynecologists deal with disorders and diseases of the female reproductive tract.


Pediatricians specialize in the treatment of newborns, infants, children and adolescents. It is their role to plan and carry out a medical care program for children – from birth through adolescence. They provide preventive health care as well as care for acute and chronic illness.
Common Questions from Primary Care Physicians
Primary Health Care
    What is primary health care?
    Can so many residents be screened for so many medical conditions in one day by a few medical doctors?
    How many residents should be assigned to a medical doctor for primary health care?
    What should a health care resource be able to provide in primary health care?
Here are further guidelines. primaryhealthcareworld.html
Here are further guidelines.