Thoughts from Dr. Robert Federman, Internal Medicine, Rochester Medical Group
primary care doctor is a physician trained in Internal Medicine or Family Medicine. The cornerstones of primary care include acute care, long-term ongoing care for chronic medical problems, preventative health care, and patient advocacy. Primary care doctors are medical professionals with whom patients and their families develop long-term relationships.
This doctor may perform an annual physical, which is a comprehensive evaluation of our past medical history, past surgical history, allergies and intolerance to medications, current medications by prescription and over-the-counter supplements, our family history and our exposure to tobacco and alcohol products.
A primary care physician may be the first contact in the health care environment for an acute medication concern or urgent care. The doctor may provide an initial evaluation for an undiagnosed symptom or health concern. The primary care doctor may evaluate the patient from head to toe and is not limited to a specific part of the body or organ system. The physician will conduct a detailed history and physical exam and then order any blood test and x-rays as needed to help with the evaluation and then if appropriate prescribe medications to help treat the medical condition. Some examples of condition seen in the urgent care setting are sore throat, cough, itchy eyes, stomach pain, nausea, neck pain, low back pain, pain in her arms or legs or rash.
Another vital role that primary care physicians perform is the ongoing evaluation and treatment of chronic medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high sugar also known as diabetes mellitus. The doctor will talk about how to main maintain a healthy lifestyle, opportunities to prevent disease, and provide patient education. Cancer screening is another important topic that is also covered by primary care physicians such as screening for breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, and skin cancer. Routine vaccines are another important discussion. Annual flu shots are recommended in the fall. Other patients may be candidates for pneumonia vaccines (Prenvar-13, and Pneumovax-23), and vaccination against shingles (Shingrix). The tetanus shot every 10 years for a rusty nail is another recommended routine vaccine.
The primary care physician may be the initial contact for patients entering health care, as well as be an advocate for the patient and the patient’s family as they see other physicians. The doctor will help coordinate the care with the specialists. It is important that the other doctors have the full picture of the patient’s medical history, response to prior treatments and results of tests including blood tests and x-rays.
A primary care physician is the doctor that you see when you are feeling well and when you are acutely ill and need urgent care evaluations as well.