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About Primary care doctors

Primary Care 101

Primary care is a branch of medicine that focuses on providing comprehensive and continuous health care for individuals, families, and communities. It encompasses preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic, rehabilitative, and palliative services to improve the overall health and well-being of patients. Primary care providers strive to provide patient-centered medical care by taking into account the patient’s physical as well as mental health needs.

Primary care providers–sometimes known as family care doctors–are usually the first point of contact for a patient. They help diagnose and treat various injuries, illnesses, and other health conditions. They provide services like:

Check-ups & Screenings

PCPs can provide the following routine check-up and diagnostic services:

  • Blood pressure screening
  • Heartbeat monitoring (EKGs)
  • Lung tests (spirometry)
  • Cancer screenings (such as for breast cancer, testicular cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer)
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Development disorder testing

Illness and injury care

Primary care physicians can help treat minor injuries and common illnesses, including:

  • Common cold
  • Flu
  • Asthma
  • Migraines
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Yeast infections
  • Rashes
  • Broken bone treatment (casting, splints, braces)

Preventative care and general wellness

Primary care physicians can play a key role in preventative care, general wellness, and disease prevention for a range of acute and chronic conditions. A primary care physician can offer medical advice, treat chronic conditions and injuries, and offer dietary/ lifestyle adjustments to prevent medical problems and improve your overall health.

You might see a primary care provider for:

  • Routine checkups
  • Immunizations
  • Urgent care
  • Blood pressure testing (to check for hypertension and heart disease)
  • Injury treatment (stitches, casting, splinting)
  • Medication prescription
  • Medical advice for general wellness

Primary care providers also offer referrals to specialists. In some cases, further testing or treatment is required for a specific condition. A primary care doctor will take stock of your symptoms and medical history, and offer a referral for a specialist when appropriate. For instance, if you are dealing with the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, your primary care provider may refer you to an endocrinologist for thyroid hormone testing. In most cases, you can’t even see a specialist without the referral of a primary care provider. In this way, they play a crucial role in ensuring that a patient gets the proper care they need.

Many people choose to have a prolonged relationship with a primary care provider. A primary care provider can make a more informed and contextualized decision or diagnosis for a patient if they are aware of that patient’s medical and family history. While sticking with a single primary care provider is not required, many patients find that this relationship helps them feel more comfortable during their visits.

Education and Training

A primary care provider has to undergo extensive education and training before they can provide medical services. In total, a primary care provider has 11 years of schooling. This includes completing a four-year undergraduate degree, followed by a three or four-year residency in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, or obstetrics/gynecology. After the residency period is completed, most providers choose to pursue board certification in their specialty area of practice. Certification requires successful completion of an exam as well as continuing medical education (CME) credits on an ongoing basis throughout their careers. In addition to formal education and training, primary care providers must also have excellent communication skills and empathy for patients which can be developed through clinical rotations during their studies.

Types of Primary Care Providers

Primary care physicians can specialize in different medical fields. While most primary care physicians can treat a wide range of conditions, injuries, and illnesses, you may want to receive a specific type of care based on your need, including:

Family medicine doctor: Family medicine doctors can treat several conditions, illnesses, and injuries in patients ranging from children to geriatric patients. Family medicine doctors may receive continued training in pediatrics and obstetrics to be able to treat children's and women’s health conditions.

Internists: Internists specialize in internal medicine for adults. Internists specialize in treating conditions such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, and hypertension.

Pediatricians: Pediatricians are doctors who specialize in pediatric medicine, or the care of infants and children. Pediatricians can do check-ups for children, provide immunizations, diagnose conditions and illnesses, and prescribe medication.

Physician assistants: Physician assistants are highly trained health care professionals that have received a Master’s degree and intensive training to be able to work alongside the primary care physician to diagnose, treat, and test for several conditions and diseases.

Obstetrician/ gynecologist: Obstetrician/ gynecologists (OB-GYNs) are specially trained to treat and care for conditions related to women’s health. OB-GYNs help with fertility, childbirth, and issues specifically relating to the health of female reproductive organs.

What to Expect from Your First Primary Care Visit

The first visit with a primary care provider will be centered around gathering pertinent information regarding your medical and family history. You will be asked to give information about past illnesses or surgeries, family health history, lifestyle habits such as smoking or alcohol consumption, medications you are taking (both prescription and over-the-counter), allergies, and reactions to certain drugs can help ensure that they have all of the necessary information needed for providing quality healthcare services.

During this first visit, a primary care provider will also likely conduct a full physical exam. A full physical exam consists of several tests used to screen for any health conditions and overall wellness.

Some common tests performed by doctors during a routine physical include:
Vital sign checks: Doctors will often check blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate to check for general wellness and any symptoms of heart disease or high blood pressure. Doctors will also use a stethoscope to help check for abnormalities in breath, heart murmurs, or irregular heartbeats as these can be signs of health problems.

Visual: Doctors will check your height and weight to calculate your body mass index, a key part of checking for obesity. Doctors will visually look for any problems with your skin, and unusual marks/ growths on the body, as these might be signs of an underlying condition. The eyes, ears, nose, and throat will also be observed to check for wellness.

Percussion tests: Doctors will gently tap and press various parts of the body (like the abdomen) to check for unusual lumps, irregular fluid buildup, and organ location.

Blood tests: Doctors may draw blood during an annual physical exam to check cholesterol levels and blood count. If you may be at risk for diabetes, blood sugar levels may be tested as well. Blood tests help doctors check for heart disease and risk of stroke.

Urinalysis: Doctors may request a urine sample to test for kidney and liver disease or diabetes. Urinalysis consists of checking the color, and content of urine. If urine is cloudy, for example, it may be a sign of a urinary tract infection. Large amounts of protein in urine might be a sign of a kidney condition. Urinalysis is a key preventative tool to help doctors catch certain conditions before they become health problems.

Cancer screening tests: These tests are done by touch to check for abnormal lumps or growths in the body. Doctors will check lymph nodes, thyroid, and skin for signs of cancer. Men often have their testicles and prostate checked to screen for cancers or irregularities. Women may have a breast exam performed to screen for breast cancer, as well as a pelvic exam and pap smear to screen for cervical cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.

Using Sesame to Find Primary Care in New York

Sesame offers convenient and affordable in-person primary care visits with health care providers in New York. Simply type in “Primary Care” in Sesame’s search bar, select the provider you want to see, and browse for available appointments. You can also use our Map View to find the provider closest to you.

Whether you need to schedule an annual physical or are looking to connect with a family medicine provider to care for you and your family, Sesame can help. Sesame offers both in-person and video primary care visits with licensed health care providers across the country. Video visits are used to address symptoms, discuss prescriptions, and screen for certain medical conditions. Telehealth (also known as telemedicine) is a convenient way to see a health care provider without requiring the commute and waiting rooms of office visits.

In-person visits, however, are vital health services. Certain conditions and specialty care services cannot be diagnosed or performed via a telehealth visit. Lab testing, for instance, often requires an in-person appointment at a doctor's office. Similarly, some physical exams, chronic condition consultations, and urgent care needs require in-person care. Some patients feel more comfortable receiving their care through in-person doctor visits, and many telehealth services require in-person visits before a condition can be definitively diagnosed. Don’t wait to get the care you need. Use Sesame to book primary care in New York City and save up to 60% on your appointment.

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