A primary care physician, also known as a PCP, is a health care professional who practices general medicine. This is the person that you see for routine check-ups and non-emergent care. Likewise, treatment is usually done in the office, but a PCP can refer you to a specialist if needed or oversee your care during a hospital admission.
What is a Primary Care Physician?
PCPs specialize in preventive care. Meaning, keeping you, or your family, from getting sick in the first place. Therefore, you will need to stay up to date on wellness visits and vaccines, as well as follow your doctor’s advice for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Consequently, it is important to to have a good relationship with your primary care physician.
Types of Primary Care Physicians
The type of primary care physician you will need depends on your unique medical needs. Let’s talk about some of the different types and who they care for.
- Family practitioners, or family medicine doctors, care for patients of all ages, from newborns, kids and teens, to adults and the elderly.
- Pediatricians specialize in care for babies, kids, and teens.
- Internists, or internal medicine doctors, usually care for adults, but some accept patients who are in their late teens.
- Adolescent medicine specialists are pediatricians or internists who have additional training in caring for teens.
- Combined internal medicine and pediatric specialists have training in both pediatrics and internal medicine, allowing them to bridge the gap between treating young patients and adults.
- Obstetricians and gynecologists specialize in women’s health issues, prenatal care and are sometimes PCPs for girls who have started menstruating.
Primary Care Physician vs Emergency Room
It can sometimes be difficult to decide if an illness or injury warrants and emergency room visit, or if it can be handled by your PCP. Normally, any medical condition that is NOT and emergency should be handled by your PCP.
This includes symptoms like
- a high fever
- ear pain
- abdominal pain
- a headache that doesn’t go away
- a rash
- mild wheezing
- a persistent cough
If you are unsure, call your primary care physician. They can listen to your concerns and determine if it warrants and emergency room visit. However, if your child experiences any of the following, you should seek emergency care immediately.
Finding the Best Primary Care Physician in Washington DC
First, decide what you are looking for in a doctor. Most importantly, you want an office that is close to home, easy to get in touch with, has business hours that work with your schedule, and has friendly staff. In addition, you should consider whether the office offers any special services such as mental health providers, social workers, lactation consultants and dietitians on the premises.
[Related: Tips for Choosing a PCP]
If you are searching for a new primary care physician, contact us today to schedule an appointment.