Don’t worry. You’re not alone in this. Many people don’t fully know what the term means, or the specific nuances in reference to medical care.
What makes it even more difficult is that the abstract noun can refer to a number of similar, interrelated, but ultimately different things.
Primary Care Might Refer to the General Maintenance of Health
When talking about primary care, oftentimes what people are referencing is very similar to what is often called “continuity of care.”
In this way, primary care refers to how people without specific health concerns maintain health. For example, when you go in for your checkup, this is an aspect of primary care. It’s an ongoing and evolving process.
Primary Care Might Refer to Institutions and Practices
Of course, primary care might refer to those who provide the care in the previous paragraph. Places like where you go to get your annual checkup.
Primary Care Might Refer Specifically to Your Primary Care Physician
When talking about primary care, individuals may be talking specifically about the physicians who provide primary care–general practitioners who maintain the health of individuals without a specific ailment.
Primary Care Might Refer to Any Physicians Who Aren’t General Practitioners but Provide Aspects of Primary Care
For example, even though a proctologist is a specialist, a regular colonoscopy is a facet of good primary care that any individual should have. This kind of nuance is important in identifying exactly what primary care is, and informs how individuals should look over their own health.
Overall, primary care can be a confusing term, but the many different aspects it can refer to all form a constellation of ideas regarding health maintenance.