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Understanding the importance of a Primary Care Provider

Primary Care physicians and providers are essential to maintaining your health.

What exactly is a Primary Care physician? This article will explain the differences between the various specialists that make up the Primary Care group.

About Primary Care

Everyone should have a Primary Care physician. Relationships with your Primary Care doctor can span decades, and they know your health condition better than anyone. Their goal is to help keep you as healthy as possible.

What is a Primary Care physician?

Okay, so we’ve established everyone needs a Primary Care physician, but what exactly is one? Primary care comprises three categories of practices: Pediatrics, Family Medicine, and Internal Medicine.

Pediatric Physicians

Pediatricians care for children newborn to 21 years of age. However, most patients transition to a Family Medicine physician at or around ten years of age.

Family Medicine Physicians

Family Medicine physicians care for both children and adults. A Family Medicine doctor often cares for an entire family. Family medicine physicians can care for general women’s health needs and refer them to gynecological specialists if needed. It’s not uncommon for a Family Medicine doctor to start seeing a patient as an infant and then care for them through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

Internal Medicine Physicians

Internal Medicine focuses on the care of adult patients. Usually, Internal Medicine doctors begin seeing patients when they reach 18 years of age. However, some Internal Medicine physicians will see patients as young as 16.

Think Whole Person Healthcare has both Internal Medicine and Family Medicine physicians along with an entire team of pharmacists, nurses, and other specialists here to care for you and your family.

Doctor, Physician, Provider. What’s the difference?

You may wonder why at think we often refer to our medical staff as providers, and other times, we refer to them as doctors or physicians. It’s because think also employees Advanced Practice Providers. Advanced Practice Providers (APP) can be Physician Assistants or Advanced Practice Registered Nurses. These medical professionals can see and treat patients similarly to physicians but are supervised by the physician. In essence, an APP is a representative of that physician. PA-Cs and APRNs may see their patients, even though a physician still supervises them. Physicians tend to increase the number of patients they care for as their practice grows. At some point, there isn’t enough time in the day to see everyone. That’s when a PA-C or APRN can be invaluable. They can see the less acute cases, like medication checks, sinus infections, cold symptoms, etc., while the physician can focus on the more complex or acute patients. Physicians oversee diagnosis and treatment plans for patients seen by our PA-C or APRN provides. Both physicians and Advanced Practice Providers work together to care for their patients efficiently and effectively.

When do I see my physician?

A good rule of thumb is to have a wellness exam every year. If you have other health conditions, your doctor may want to see you more often. For example, patients with heart conditions may require visits every 2-3 months. Or patients with uncontrolled diabetes may need frequent visits to stabilize their diabetes. It all depends on your doctor’s assessment of your health risks and overall wellness. Regardless, it’s important to follow the recommendations of your doctor. Their goal is to get you healthy!

Emergencies

There are times when you should go to the emergency department at your nearby hospital. Here are a few scenarios that warrant emergency care:

  • If you are experiencing chest pains that radiate to your limb(s), call 911.
  • If you fall and break a hip or leg or hit your head and are dizzy, call 911.
  • Find you have difficulty moving limbs on one side of your body or have trouble forming words, call 911.
  • If you lose consciousness and feel confused or disoriented, call 911.
  • If you experience trauma and feel your life is at risk, call 911.
  • Emergency rooms are busy places. Many ERs are trauma centers, and when there is a medical emergency, they take priority. Expect to spend 3-6 hours at the emergency room if your medical condition is not critical.

Urgent Care/ Walk-in Clinics

Urgent cares and walk-in clinics are very convenient and designed to keep costs at a minimum. APPs usually staff Urgent care and walk-in clinics. They can treat minor illnesses and emergent situations such as:

  • Fever
  • Sinus and other isolated Infections
  • Cuts, scrapes, sprains, and minor breaks (depending on the clinic)
  • Vaccinations
  • Cold/Flu symptoms
  • Some skin rashes

Most Urgent Care and Walk-in clinics won’t take appointments, so be prepared for your visit to take up to 2-3 hours. Clinics will see sicker patients before less ill patients. So no matter when you arrive, sicker patients take priority.

Primary Care Clinic

Routine medical exams, management of chronic illness, annual physicals, medical issues that are not urgent are ideal examples of when you should see your Primary Care provider. In most cases, our think physicians and providers can see patients the same day. Our providers also utilize telehealth or virtual visits. If you have a minor ailment and can’t travel to the clinic, you can schedule a video call with your provider, who can diagnose and prescribe medications for several conditions.

At think, we strongly recommend seeing your Primary Care physician before seeing a specialist. Seeing your Primary Care physician ensures collaboration between physicians and strengthens the continuity of care. Your physician can recommend the right specialist for your particular needs. Your Primary Care physician is here to make sure you get the right care from a qualified provider.

Nurse Care Coordination

If you have more than two chronic conditions (e.g., diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, etc.), you may have access to a nurse care coordinator. In the case you have a care coordinator, calling them first may save you time and money. Care coordinators can answer most medical questions and guide treatment for minor conditions. They can help determine the appropriate level of care for your need and even help schedule appointments if needed.

Take charge of your health.

Having a Primary Care provider is the cornerstone to maintaining your health. Choosing a physician is easy at think. Call 402.506.9049, or complete the new patient form, and one of our schedulers can assist with choosing a provider and scheduling an appointment.

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