Primary Care Provider

Primary Care Definition

Primary care is defined by the following definitions. 

Providers describe the primary care provided to a patient, the system that provides care, and clinicians who deliver it.

Together, they provide a framework that lets patients access high-quality primary care services of the highest quality, resulting in better care, better health, and lower costs.

Primary Care

In primary care, physicians and their health care teams provide integrated and accessible health care services to meet the majority of patients’ health needs, develop a partnership with patients, and treat patients in the context of their families and communities. 

The care is person-centered, team-based, community-aligned, and designed to improve health, care, and cost.

Primary Care Physicians

Primary care physicians are specialists in family medicine, general internal medicine or general pediatrics who provide definitive care to undifferentiated patients at the point of first contact, and who take ongoing responsibility for the patient’s comprehensive care.

Inpatient and outpatient care may include chronic, preventive and acute care.

During residency or fellowship training in acute and chronic care settings, such physicians are specifically trained to provide comprehensive primary care.

The majority of primary care physicians’ time is spent providing services to a defined patient population.

Primary care is a practice style in which the primary care provider is the point of entry for all health care needs for the patient – regardless of problem origin, organ system, or diagnosis.

Primary care physicians coordinate the use of the entire health care system to benefit patients.

There are times when physicians without training in family medicine, general internal medicine, or general pediatrics provide primary care services that are usually provided by primary care physicians.

Physicians may specialize in prevention, health maintenance, acute care, chronic care, or rehabilitation of patients. However, these physicians do not provide these services as part of comprehensive, first contact, and continuing care.

Primary Care Practice

Primary care practices serve as an entry point into the health care system and a point of coordination for all necessary health care services.

Patients have easy access to their own personal physician and health care team through primary care practices.

Care that is person- and family-centered, continuous, comprehensive and equitable, team-based and collaborative, coordinated and integrated, accessible, and high quality.

Primary care practices meet the needs of patients with differentiated and undifferentiated problems and address the vast majority of patients’ concerns.

Practices located in the community they serve facilitate access to health care while maintaining a wide variety of specialty and institutional consultative relationships for specific needs.

Primary care practices often include physicians and other health professionals.

Non-Primary Care Physicians

To meet specific patient needs, non-primary care physicians may need to be involved. 

In the absence of comprehensive primary care training, these individuals must work closely with primary care physicians. 

In an effective primary care system, these physicians may be members of the health care team with a primary care physician responsible for the success of the team and the patient’s comprehensive, ongoing care.

Primary care can be provided by nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other clinicians. 

They should provide patient care as part of a collaborative team, with the primary care physician having ultimate responsibility for the patient.

Patients are best served when their care is provided by a primary care physician and an integrated team of practitioners. 

To support comprehensive care delivery, health professionals work as an interprofessional, interdependent team. 

Using an interprofessional, collaborative approach to health care, they manage the care of an individual patient and a population. 

All team members should be empowered to utilize the skills, training, and abilities of each team member to the full extent of their professional capacity by enhancing communication and processes.

Types of Primary Care Providers

You might consider each type of doctor for your own care, and here’s a quick breakdown of the five types of doctors for primary care.

Internal Medicine Doctors

Do you know what an internal medicine doctor is? 

Internal medicine doctors only treat adults, which makes them different from other primary care doctors. 

Doctors who are internists are trained to treat both simple and complex conditions from early adulthood through old age.

Doctors of internal medicine are experts at balancing an adult’s regular preventive care needs with specialized care needs. 

They are well-versed in conditions that can arise in adulthood such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.


Pediatricians specialize in the care of children from birth through early adulthood. 

Patients can expect them to treat minor illnesses and injuries, as well as more complex conditions.

Their area of practice overlaps with that of family medicine doctors, who see children from birth to adulthood. 

However, the main difference between pediatricians and family medicine doctors is that pediatricians specialize in children’s health.

Pediatricians have extensive knowledge of childhood medical conditions, and they also understand developmental milestones and how to keep children on track toward a healthy future.

Moreover, pediatricians are trained to talk to children and make them feel comfortable – a big plus if your child is shy or frightened of the doctor. 

If you want a doctor whose sole focus is on kids’ health, a pediatrician can be the best choice.

Family Physicians

A family doctor is unique in that he or she cares for your entire family. He or she sees babies, children, parents and grandparents. 

When someone in your family is ill, you have someone who knows your family history and can provide highly personalized care.

It is convenient and gives you peace of mind to know that you can go to one trusted source for all of your family’s health care needs. 

Family doctors treat a variety of patients, which gives them a broad range of experience. 

They know how to communicate with patients of every age, from toddlers to the elderly.

Families with multiple appointments on the same day can find it convenient to consult with a family medicine doctor.

Internal Medicine-Pediatrics Doctors

Physicians who specialize in internal medicine and pediatrics are two types of doctors. 

Their training includes both internal medicine and pediatrics. 

Children and adults can benefit from these doctors’ care, as well as prevent, treat and diagnose diseases. 

Medical pediatricians are known as MED-Peds (pronounced: MED-peeds).

Many patients appreciate the fact that a med-peds doctor is both a pediatrician and an internist. 

Due to their broad expertise, med-peds may be your family’s primary doctor, even if someone has a medical condition that requires specialized treatment.

OB-GYN Doctors

OB-GYN doctors specialize in women’s health, especially reproductive health. 

Women’s health services and screenings such as Pap tests, pelvic exams, and STI testing are provided. 

A primary care clinic or a specialty clinic may provide these services.

OB/GYNs assist with everything from family planning to choosing the best birth control method. 

They also provide care during pregnancy and menopause.

A woman’s OB-GYN is often considered a close and trusted medical advisor. 

It’s not uncommon for women to choose OB-GYNs as their only primary care providers if they’re in good health.

Since OB-GYNs specialize in the female reproductive system, it’s a good idea to see both an OB-GYN and a primary care doctor like an internist, family practitioner, or med-ped.

OB-GYNs can handle all your women’s health needs, as well as provide some preventive care like flu shots, but your primary care doctor can help when you’re sick or have questions about your overall health.

Seeing a primary care physician regularly helps you stay on top of your health, regardless of who you choose. 

Routine exams, screenings, and immunizations are important to keep up with. 

In addition to keeping you healthier, preventive care is usually covered 100% by most health insurance plans – even those with high deductibles.

You might only need to see your primary care doctor once a year if you’re healthy, but if you have a chronic condition like diabetes, you might need to visit more often. 

Similarly, if you have an illness or injury, your primary care physician can help you get back on track.

To find out what’s covered and what isn’t, including whether the doctor you’d like to see is in your network, contact your insurance provider.

How To Choose A Primary Care Provider

There are health plans that require you to select a primary care provider (PCP), sometimes called a primary care physician or doctor. 

Some plans may not require you to have a PCP, but it’s a good idea to have one.

Throughout your healthcare journey, your PCP will guide you and gain a deep understanding of your health. 

The more your doctor knows about your medical history, your habits, and your personality, the better able they will be to guide you on the best path of treatment, monitor even the slightest changes in your health, and recognize red flags before they become serious issues.


Is it important to you to have a doctor near your home or office? 

If so, find a doctor whose office is convenient for you to visit. 

You should also consider the doctor’s office hours – what days and hours does he or she see patients? 

Would you be able to visit the office after work or on weekends or do you need to take time off work? 

Check what hospital the doctor admits patients to as well.

Another important aspect to check is the language. 

You need to be able to communicate clearly with your doctor, so check which languages he or she speaks so that you can both understand one another. 

Many doctors use email or an online portal to communicate with patients, which may also be important to tech-savvy communicators when choosing a physician.

There is no better way to determine whether you’ve chosen the right doctor than to meet him or her in person. 

You should feel comfortable in the doctor’s office and with the nurses. 

To manage your healthcare, you should have a primary care physician you trust and can rely on. 

When it comes to managing chronic conditions, talk to him or her about any current medications you are taking and your medical history.

In the office, you should consider other environmental factors. 

Is the person who answers the phone and welcomes you when you arrive efficient and friendly? 

Do they answer the phone promptly? How far in advance are appointments required? 

When you arrive for your appointment, how long is the wait to see the doctor?

Primary Care Specialists

Primary care doctors don’t work alone. 

By guiding a whole team of healthcare professionals, they help you set realistic goals for managing health issues and staying healthy.

In today’s health care system, primary care providers play a more important role than ever before. Let’s look at six different types of primary care providers.

When you visit a primary care provider for the first time or switch to another doctor, it’s important to know their different roles and titles.

Primary Care Provider

A PCP oversees a team that provides primary care for you and your family. 

In addition to diagnosing and treating a wide range of acute and chronic health problems, they also connect you with the appropriate services for routine and specialty care.

Advanced Practice Provider

Advanced practice providers can provide much of the same preventive, acute and chronic care as your primary care physician. 

An occupational therapist can assess, diagnose, treat, prescribe, and educate you about your health conditions and wellness.

During their first year of practice after medical school (residency), doctors-in-training are under the supervision of your primary care physician. 

Doctors-in-training provide advanced medical care and help you manage your health.

Clinical Pharmacist

A clinical pharmacist has extensive training in managing chronic diseases and can prescribe and adjust medication until your condition is under control. 

Clinical pharmacists may see you alone or work in conjunction with your physician.

Registered Nurses

A registered nurse (RN) assesses your health needs, becomes your advocate and assists you with navigating the healthcare system. 

Registered nurses assist patients with chronic illness management and preventative care.

Medical Assistants

A medical assistant prepares you and your physician for your appointment. 

Take your medical history and vital signs, update your chart, call in prescriptions, assist with insurance and assist the team in many ways.

They all work together to provide you and your family with comprehensive, continuous, and compassionate care. 

Yet, they can’t do it alone – they need your help.

Your primary care provider is often your first point of contact for health care. 

As a team, PCPs provide you and your family with comprehensive, continuous, and compassionate care.

Degrees A Primary Care Provider May Hold


MD stands for doctor of medicine. MDs have completed four years of medical school and 3-6 years of postgraduate training through internships, residencies, and fellowships. 

Board certification and licensing are requirements for MDs who practice in a specific specialty. 

Medical doctors practice preventative medicine and take a whole person approach to medicine.


DOs are doctors of osteopathic medicine. 

Doctors of Osteopathy have completed four years of medical school and three to six years of graduate training through internships, residencies, and fellowships. 

Board certification and licensure are requirements for DOs who practice in a specific specialty. 

A DO emphasizes preventive medicine and a whole person approach to medicine.


PA-Cs are certified physician assistants. They are licensed to practice medicine alongside MDs or DOs. 

Physician assistants perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive healthcare, assist in surgery, and write prescriptions.


ARNPs are advanced registered nurse practitioners. ARNPs are registered nurses who are licensed to practice alongside MDs and DOs. 

They conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and write prescriptions.

Primary Care Provider Frequently Asked Questions

Primary health care focuses on caring for people rather than specific diseases.
Primary care includes treating common illnesses, managing chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, and preventing future illnesses through vaccinations, screenings, and advice.

Doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants are primary care providers.

An urgent health concern, such as a cold, flu, fever, sudden pain, insect bites, rash, or allergies, can be treated by a primary care physician.
Whether you are suffering from everyday pain or a complex disease, your primary care physician will be able to diagnose, prescribe, and offer advice regarding your health.

Primary care physicians (PCPs) are health care professionals who specialize in general medicine. They are our first point of contact for medical care.
PCPs are usually doctors, but nurse practitioners and physician assistants may also be PCPs.

Physicians (M.D. – Medical Doctor, D.O. – Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists or physician assistants, as permitted by state law, who provide, coordinate or help a patient access a range of health care services.

The terms “primary care physician” and “general practitioner” are sometimes used interchangeably.
However, they are not synonymous. Regular check-ups are done by a primary care physician.
Primary care physicians may be internists, family practitioners, or another type of doctor.

Day-to-day health needs are managed by primary care providers.
Maintaining a long-term relationship with your PCP keeps you healthier and lowers your medical costs.
PCPs can teach you how to stay healthy, treat you when you’re sick, and help you get more advanced care when you need it.

Physicians who practice general medicine are known as primary care providers (PCPs).
PCPs are our first point of contact for medical care.
PCPs are typically doctors, though nurse practitioners and physician assistants can also be PCPs.

Adults are treated by an internal medicine physician.
A family practitioner is a pediatrician and internist combined into one specialty, and they treat both children and adults.

Providers come between doctors and their patients, taking away the joy of practicing medicine.
When patients enter the health care system, it is important for physicians to make their roles clear to them.

Physicians (M.D. – Medical Doctor, D.O. – Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists or physician assistants, as permitted by state law, who provide, coordinate or help a patient access a range of health care services.