7 Types of Primary Care Providers - Which One Is Best For You?
Taking care of your health is essential if you want to live a long and healthy life free of pain. This starts with having regular visits with your primary care provider (PCP). With that said, it helps to know exactly what a PCP is, the benefits of having one, and the different types of primary care providers out there. Only then can you decide which one is right for you.
What Is a Primary Care Provider?
A primary care provider is a licensed healthcare practitioner who provides ongoing primary care to a patient with an undiagnosed medical condition, not necessarily associated with a more serious medical problem and not by cause, organ system, or other defining feature. In the United States, primary care is frequently provided by general practitioners. Primary care physicians typically do not specialize in any one area of medicine, but they are usually board-certified. They perform routine general exams and laboratory tests and may refer patients to specialists when needed.
The Benefits of Primary Care Providers
The benefits of primary care medical practitioners go way beyond simple treatment of a patient. PCP’s are trained to identify, manage and treat all types of ailments. Their patients may range from children to senior citizens. Some work in hospitals or holistic centers, while others work from home. It is important for everyone to make sure that they have a primary care practitioner who they can depend on. Here are some benefits of having a PCP as your regular medical provider:
The main benefit of having a PCP is the fact that he or she will provide expert advice regarding your health. This means that your health concerns will be taken seriously. Since he or she has gone through extensive education and training to learn all the tricks of the trade, he or she will know what to do to ensure your overall health and recovery.
If you do not have a primary care provider, you will not receive the necessary preventative care and guidance to help keep you healthy. These professionals spend their time providing care to people who need it the most, hence their priority is to see to it that the patient is comfortable and well taken care of.
Another benefit of having a primary care professional includes getting timely medical treatment. There is no better way to prevent disease than early detection. If you go in for routine checkups, the specialist knows exactly what condition you have and what to do in order to treat it. This reduces the chances of you receiving treatments that may actually be doing more harm than good. When you visit a PCP for a checkup, he or she can even predict what your future health care needs will be so you don't find yourself in a situation wherein you could have avoided it all together.
Primary care providers make sure that you get the best possible health care. They keep abreast of the latest research and in-depth analysis on health matters. You can consult with them about your current health condition or obtain information about diseases that may be threatening to you in the future. These professionals can even keep track of your family's health, so you can be informed of any potential threat to your loved ones from acquiring a certain ailment.
7 Different Types of Primary Care Providers
Having read this far, you now know what a PCP is and some of the benefits of having one. However, there are multiple types of PCPs. Here are 7 you should know about:
1. Family Medicine Practitioners
Family medicine, sometimes called family practice, is an area of specialization in medical practice intended to offer comprehensive healthcare to all members of a family. These include providing primary care, diagnosis, and effective treatment of a wide variety of diseases and disorders among family members. A primary care provider is also typically known as a family doctor or family physician. In most areas of the United States, family doctors also provide coverage for prescription drugs.
What Kind of Patients Do Family Medicine Doctors Typically See?
Family doctors diagnose and treat many age groups of patients for common ailments and diseases. They typically handle ongoing wellness assistance but don't deal so much with more complicated medical complications.
2. Nurse Practitioners
Nurse Practitioners, also known as NPs, are healthcare professionals who have completed the graduate level training required to become a registered nurse. A nurse practitioner is a specialized form of medical mid-level practitioner and an independent medical specialist. Unlike registered nurses, NPs do not attend medical school and must gain their license after graduating from an accredited nursing school. NPs are required to receive a Master's degree in Nursing (MSN). Generally, an NP is responsible for treating patients with a range of different illnesses and conditions. An NP has a comprehensive range of skills that enables her or him to treat patients of different ages, ensuring that each patient receives the best care available. As compared to other healthcare professionals such as registered nurses and physicians, an NP often focuses on specific populations such as children, families or the elderly. Some NPs also specialize in specific areas of nursing. The most common areas of nursing specialization that an NP is trained in include pediatric, family practice, adult practice and trauma. In addition, there are many who choose to become an NP specializing in forensic nursing.
What Kind of Patients Do Nurse Practitioners Typically See?
The duties and responsibilities of nurse practitioners vary on a state level. They can see all ranges of patients depending on their specialization. They do get advanced training, and can often do most things doctors can, short of surgery.
3. Physician Assistants
A physician assistant (PA) or practitioner assistant is another important type of medical staff. PAs can diagnose diseases, devise treatments, administer medication and can even serve as the patient's primary healthcare provider. They may perform various duties that are essential to the practice of medicine such as diagnosing ailments, preparing patients for examinations, documenting patient medical histories, ensuring quality of care, educating patients on their medications and healthcare procedures and responding to emergency situations. The majority of PA schools focus on one particular specialty such as pediatrics, women's health, radiology, gynecology, or cardiac care. Students spend two years in a clinical medicine residency program and attend classes at a standard PA school. After graduating, they will be able to take the state board exam and obtain their PA license. Many physicians assistants also go on to become full-time physicians after completing their residencies.
What Kind of Patients Do Physician Assistants Typically See?
The specific duties of a physician assistant are decided by their supervising physician & state law, however they typically provide much of the same services as a PCP. They are licensed to practice in every state and in a wide range of clinical settings & specialties. They work in numerous healthcare environments, ranging from doctor’s offices to hospitals. It’s also important to note that The Board of Medicine, which regulates doctors, also regulates physician assistants.
4. Internal Medicine Doctors
Internal medicine is a medical specialty dealing specifically with the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of internal illnesses. Doctors practicing in internal medicine are usually known as internal practitioners, or internists. Internal medicine doctors must complete a three-year residency before they are able to practice internal medicine, on top of that some take additional training in a subspecialty.
What Kind of Patients Do Internal Medicine Doctors Typically See?
The lines between primary care doctors and internal medicine doctors blur in many cases. However, internal medicine doctors usually only see patients 18 and older. Internal medicine doctors typically treat patients with conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and/or lung disease. Internists may consult with other doctors in another field of medicine, or they may be called upon to consult on a patient by another doctor.
An OB-GYN is a doctor who specializes in female reproductive health. They can answer questions you may have regarding reproductive health, sex, pregnancy, infertility and many other topics. Although suggested recommendations may vary with age and can change over time, most women see their OB-GYNs once annually. Some women even use them as their primary care doctor. This type of healthcare provider may also help with other general health needs such as mental health issues, prescriptions, blood work and referrals to other specialists.
What Kind of Patients Do OB-GYN Providers Typically See?
OB-GYNS can provide a large range of medical services, which can include STD testing, pap smears, pelvic exams, blood work & ultrasounds. As mentioned before, many women see their OB-GYNs as their primary care provider, primarily due to their ability to assist with a wide range of health concerns.
Pediatricians are responsible for the well-being of children and adolescents. They are trained to diagnose, treat, and prevent childhood ailments like obesity, asthma, allergies, diabetes and juvenile arthritis. Pediatricians ensure that children and teenagers get proper health care from a specialized doctor. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that people under pediatric care are under medical supervision during the first year of life. A pediatrician can work in a hospital or privately in a family practice. Pediatricians might also focus on issues like bone health, musculoskeletal issues, neurological issues, cardiovascular health, fertility, neonatology, oncology, trauma and immunology.
What Kind of Patients Do Pediatricians Typically See?
Pediatricians typically work with infants, children, and adolescents. They are trained for managing care of kids up to the age of 18, but many teens start switching over to PCPs long before then.
Geriatric care is a rapidly growing specialty that focuses on the health issues of older people. Geriatrics also includes many related disciplines, such as clinical practice, medical research, and public health. It aims to promote total health by treating and preventing illnesses and disabilities among the elderly. Geriatric doctors are experts in providing preventive care, treating conditions that can lead to long-term complications, and educating the public about geriatric issues. Geriatrics is an expanding field, given that the baby boomer generation is reaching old age and the population of the elderly is increasing significantly. The United States has one of the largest and most rapidly growing populations of the elderly. Because there is an aging population, the demand for health care in this segment is also increasing.
What Kind of Patients Do Geriatric Doctors Typically See?
There's no particular age where you start seeing a geriatric doctor. Generally speaking, you'd start seeing one if you are dealing with health issues associated with aging.
Choosing a PCP
When considering choosing a primary care provider, there are a variety of factors that must be taken into consideration. These factors include the cost of the doctor's services, experience level, specialization, and location. These factors are important not only to ensure that your health needs are met in the most effective and efficient way possible, but also to ensure that the doctor selected is one who you feel comfortable with and who can provide you with the highest quality medical care.
At Tripment, we believe that healthcare can be done better, and it starts with helping people understand the importance of finding a primary care physician that is right for you and your health needs. Click here to find a reputable primary care provider who can help you stay on top of your routine medical needs.