What is Primary Care and Why it’s Important

October 5, 2021


Primary Care is a term that is often used in regard to medical care, but what is primary care exactly? In honor of National Primary Care Week (October 4-8th), we’ll explain what primary care is, what services are provided, why types of providers you can expect to see, and why it’s important to have a primary care provider. 

What is primary care?

Let’s start with the basics. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Primary Care is defined as health care provided by a medical professional (such as a general practitioner, pediatrician, or nurse) with whom a patient has initial contact and by whom the patient may be referred to a specialist.

Depending on where you live, your doctor may be referred to as a Primary Care Provider or a Primary Care Physician. Both are commonly called PCP’s for short and have the same meaning.  

Primary care providers keep track of your overall health and monitor conditions like blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight. Providers can also screen you for other conditions related to behavioral health or heredity diseases that might run in your family. In addition to monitoring, they are also available when you are sick or might be having other health issues. If your primary care provider can’t help you, they will refer you to a specialist such as an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat doctor), or a podiatrist who specializes in feet and lower leg ailments. 

Primary care can be found in a variety of places including Health Centers like StayWell, private practices, group practices, long-term care facilities, and both outpatient and inpatient hospital settings. 

What services does a PCP provide?

Primary care providers typically have a long list of services that they offer including: 

  • Short-Term Care- routine physicals and sick visits.
  • Screenings- high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, domestic violence, developmental disorders, diabetes, heart disease, cancers, sexually transmitted diseases, and immunizations to prevent illness such as the flu. 
  • Chronic disease management- diabetes, blood pressure, arthritis, asthma, and osteoporosis.
  • Lab tests- blood work, allergy testing, and testing for infections such as urinary track infections.

While a PCP offers many services, they also have the ability to schedule x-rays, and MRI’s if necessary to determine what might be wrong. Providers can order other types of tests suck as an EKG, and can prescribe medications to help manage symptoms such as migraines and asthma attacks. Your PCP will also have a list of recommended specialist who you can be referred to if you need a high lever of specialty care. 


What type of doctor is right for you?

There are several types of doctors that you can see depending on your needs. People have different needs at different ages and might require different doctors who specialize in one or more field. At times you might have multiple doctors to assist with your specific set of needs. Some of the types of doctors include:

  • Family Doctors who treat patients at all ages of life and are typically trained in multiple areas of medicine. 
  • Pediatricians specialize in the age range of 0-21. 
  • Internists are doctors who focus on internal medicine and have a specialty in treating adults. They typically have training in a variety of fields including neurology and orthopedics. 
  • Geriatricians specialize in treating older adults and and are specially trained to treat dementia, balance issues, and other conditions that often effect older adults. 
  • Obstetrician-gynecologists, or OB-GYN for short, specialize in women’s health and handle everything from annual health exams to pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum conditions.  


Why is seeing a primary care provider important and how does it benefit you?

In recent years there has been a bigger push to visit with your primary care provider regularly, even if you aren’t feeling sick in any way. During a routine visit, your doctor will screen for health conditions that could result in larger issues if left undetected. Some conditions, when caught early, can be managed with a simple diet and exercise change. 

Leading a healthier life. 

Your doctor knows you. Going to a walk-in clinic for an issue is great during off hours or in an emergency situation when your doctor may not be able to see you, however those doctors don’t know you personally. Your PCP will know your medical history, have a file with specific notes, and in some cases, may know members of your family and their history.  With that knowledge, your provider will be able to help you better when you are sick because they know what works and doesn’t work for your specific set of needs. 

Primary care providers don’t just give you a check-up and send you on your way. They are invested in your overall health and will do what they can to help you stay healthy. They can provide education to help you make healthier choices, make lifestyle changes, and recommend specialist to help get you on a path to a healthier life. 


Take the first step today and call a Primary Care Provider. StayWell Health Center can be reached at 203-756-8021. 


The StayWell Health Center Team