What Is a Primary Care Specialist?

Kenneth W. Michael Wills
Kenneth W. Michael Wills

A primary care specialist is usually the first point of contact for someone who has a concern related to his or her health. As a medical doctor, the primary care physician has also completed postgraduate training in a primary care program, often with a focus on a specialty. These specialties include family or general medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine, adolescent medicine or an internal medicine and pediatrics dual specialty. Working closely with specialists, these doctors will diagnose concerns and provide treatment when the diagnosis falls under his or her specialty. IIn cases where the diagnosis falls outside the primary care physician’s expertise, he or she will then refer the patient to a more qualified specialist, but may also work with that specialist to provide treatment.

Family medical physicians is a category of primary care specialists who have specialized training in all aspects of primary care and can administer medical treatment to patients of all age groups. Aside from making diagnosis and treatments, all primary care specialists can offer advice on healthy lifestyles and managing medical concerns. Particularly, the main concern of a primary care specialist is to track medical histories and catch medical issues early, before they become a chronic condition.

Pediatricians are primary care specialists who work with children of all ages. Exhibiting excellent communication skills, these physicians have special training that equips them to listen to children, understand their needs, and explain complex medical concepts in simple-to-understand language. Many pediatricians will work with children even after they are well into their teens, while some will stop treating a patient after a certain age. Those doctors will often refer patients to another primary care specialist who specializes in working with teenagers or adults. Dual specialists in pediatrics and internal medicine treat both children and adults, and such expertise is particularly helpful when managing a disease that started in childhood.

Internal medicine physicians are also primary care specialists, but focus their expertise in working with adults. They have special training in attending to adults of all ages, but may not always be suitable for children since they are used to communicating with adults. Some internal medicine specialists, however, will see patients in their late teen years.

Adolescent medicine specialists have attended either a program in pediatrics or internal medicine and also have additional training in administering medical care to children in their teens. With specialized training in attending to the medical needs of teenagers, this type of primary care specialist often understands how to make teenagers feel comfortable in a healthcare setting. Such expertise can prove helpful in cases where teenagers are dealing with sensitive issues related to their medical needs.

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