Profile of a Primary Care Physician
What is a general practice physician? A general practitioner conducts annual physical examinations to monitor patients’ blood pressure, cholesterol levels and glucose levels, and ensures other baseline tests are within normal levels for the patient’s age and gender. This specialist also treats acute and chronic illnesses, and provides health education and preventative care for all ages and genders. Part of the skill set of the general practitioner includes treating patients with multiple health problems. General practitioners are also called family doctors, internists, or family practitioners.
When do I see a general practitioner? When a patient is an infant or child, they may see a pediatric care physician. When the young patient transitions from childhood to adulthood during adolescence, he or she can see a general practice doctor specializing in adolescent medicine or a regular general practitioner, also known as adult-care physician. Around the ages 18-21, patients typically transition to an adult-care general practitioner who is better suited for their health-care needs.
What should I expect when I visit my primary care physician? A primary care physician’s scope of practice varies, but this health-care provider typically gives basic diagnoses and non-surgical treatment of common medical conditions and illnesses.
Doctors will collect a patient history and review it to help in the decision-making process when making a diagnosis. Doctors review prior medical history, ailments and other health information. A physical examination helps them reach diagnoses. Sometimes they will order basic medical tests, such as blood tests, electrocardiograms or X-rays. Tests of a more complex and lengthy nature are typically handled by specialists. In this case, the general practitioner (primary care physician) will make a referral.
Together with the patient, the health care provider forms a plan that can include additional testing if needed, a referral to see a specialist, medication prescriptions, therapies, changes to diet or lifestyle, additional patient education and follow-up treatment. Patients also may receive advice or education on improving health behaviors, self-care and treatment, screening tests and immunizations.