A primary care doctor is the first point of contact for patients when they have a physical or mental health issue. Primary care physicians, PCPs provide preventive care and diagnosis and treatment for common illnesses and injuries. They are the first line of defense in getting the healthcare you need, so it’s important to understand what exactly they do. Let’s break down the duties of your primary care doctor.

Diagnosing and Treating Illnesses and Injuries

The most important duty of your primary care doctor is diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries. This includes performing physical exams, ordering tests, interpreting test results, providing vaccinations, prescribing medications, and making referrals to specialists when necessary.

The nature of their work requires them to be knowledgeable about a variety of medical conditions, diseases, treatments, medications, therapies, etc. They will also monitor your overall health by keeping track of changes in your health status over time.

Diagnostic Testing

Primary care physicians use diagnostic tests to take a closer look at the patient’s physical condition. Diagnostic testing can involve lab work, imaging tests, or even physical exams to help determine the diagnosis. Diagnostic testing helps the doctor identify any underlying causes of an illness and can guide them in providing the right treatment plan for the individual patient.

Prescription Medications

Depending on the diagnosis, a primary care physician may decide that prescription medications are necessary for treating an illness. Prescription medications can be used to manage chronic conditions or treat acute infections.

A PCP will take into account the patient’s medical history when deciding which type of medication is appropriate for their condition. They will also monitor the patient’s progress while they are taking any prescribed medications to make sure it is working effectively and safely.

Diagnosing Illnesses

One of the primary tasks of a primary care doctor is diagnosing illnesses or detecting health issues. In order to do so, they will often use physical exams and medical tests to determine what is wrong with the patient’s body. This can include lab tests, x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans and more.

The doctor may also ask questions about your health history or current symptoms you’re experiencing in order to get a better understanding of your condition. Once they have identified what is causing the illness or disease, they can move on to treatment options.

Treatment Options From Your Primary Care Physician

The next step is treating the illness or disease that has been diagnosed by the primary care doctor. Treatment options vary depending on the type of illness or disease being treated but typically involve medications or lifestyle changes such as diet modifications or exercise programs. In some cases, surgery may be required to treat patients if the illness is particularly severe or if it resists other forms of treatment. The goal is always to reduce symptoms and/or restore health back to its normal state as quickly as possible for the patient’s comfort and well-being.

Follow Up Care

In addition to diagnosing illnesses and providing treatments for them, primary care physicians also provide follow-up care after treatment has been completed. This ensures that any side effects from medications are monitored as well as any changes in symptoms that may occur over time.

Follow-up visits can also help prevent the recurrence of illnesses by identifying any potential triggers that could cause them to return in the future. PCPs can also guide lifestyle changes such as diet modifications or stress management techniques which can help reduce the chances of relapse into an illness or disease state in the future.

Preventive Care

Preventive care is another important duty that your primary care physician provides for their patients. This includes giving regular checkups to detect any potential problems early on before they become more serious issues.

It also involves educating patients on how to live healthier lifestyles through diet and exercise as well as providing advice about avoiding risky behaviors like smoking or drinking alcohol excessively. Preventive screenings such as mammograms or colon cancer screening may also be recommended depending on a patient’s age or risk factors through their family doctor.

Screenings and Tests Through Family Physicians

Primary care physicians can perform screenings to check for issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, cancer, and more. These tests are usually recommended based on your age and risk factors, such as family history or lifestyle habits. The purpose of these screenings is to catch any potential issues as early as possible and treat them before they become serious health problems.

Vaccinations

Primary care doctors also administer vaccinations to protect against diseases like the flu, measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis), pneumonia, shingles, HPV (human papillomavirus), hepatitis A and B, meningococcal disease (meningitis), rotavirus, and others.

Vaccines are especially important for children because their bodies are still developing; immunizations can help give them protection against severe illnesses until their immune systems have fully matured.

Nutrition Education

Good nutrition is essential for good health. PCPs can provide advice on how to make healthy food choices that will help you stay in shape and maintain optimal health. This includes information about portion sizes, calorie intake recommendations for weight loss or gain goals, meal planning tips for busy schedules or special dietary restrictions (e.g., vegetarianism), info about sodium and sugar consumption levels that should be avoided if possible, etc.

Coordinating Care

Primary care doctors coordinate with other healthcare professionals like specialists who may provide more specific treatments or tests related to a particular medical condition or injury that requires further assessment or treatment than can be provided by the PCP alone.

Primary care physicians also serve as advocates for their patients who may need help navigating the healthcare system (e.g., understanding insurance benefits). Additionally, if a patient experiences an emergency where hospitalization is needed, the primary care doctor will typically oversee coordination between all involved parties (e.g., hospitals, and specialists).

Primary Care Physicians are Often In Charge of Coordinating With Specialists

Primary care doctors work closely with specialists who may provide more specific treatments or tests related to a particular medical condition or injury that requires further assessment or treatment than can be provided by the PCP alone.

In many cases, this coordination is done through referrals from the primary care doctor to specialists such as cardiologists, orthopedists, neurologists, and oncologists. The specialist will then take over the management of the patient’s case while taking into account any recommendations from the primary care doctor.

They are also in charge of your medical records and sending them to other doctor’s offices or inpatient hospital settings.

Primary Care Providers Are Advocating For Patients

Primary care doctors also serve as advocates for their patients who may need help navigating the healthcare system (e.g., understanding insurance benefits). This includes helping them understand what treatments are covered by insurance policies, providing advice on lifestyle changes to improve overall health, providing resources for mental health services or addiction treatment if needed, and discussing any concerns about medication side effects.

Additionally, if a patient experiences an emergency where hospitalization is needed, the primary care physicians will typically oversee coordination between all involved parties (e.g., hospitals, and specialists). Having this extra layer of support helps make sure that all parties involved in a patient’s case are communicating effectively about diagnosis and treatment plans moving forward.

Primary Care Internal Medicine Doctors can also be helpful in the following areas of family medicine:

  • Internal Medicine
  • Disease Prevention
  • Health Concerns
  • Women’s Health
  • Men’s Health
  • General Healthcare
  • Blood Tests
  • Deliver Babies (in some practices)
  • Patient Care
  • Health Care
  • Heart Disease
  • Acute Conditions
  • Chronic Conditions
  • Provide Primary Care
  • Health Conditions
  • Health Maintenance
  • Healthier Lifestyle Choices
  • Other Healthcare Needs
  • Other Health Concerns

Primary Care is Covered By Insurance

In most cases, your primary care provider and the personalized healthcare you receive from them is covered by health insurance.

Overall, having a primary care physician is essential for managing both acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) medical conditions throughout one’s life span—from childhood into adulthood—and beyond! Your PCP is your trusted ally in navigating the healthcare system and can diagnose illnesses/injuries accurately while providing preventive services to keep you healthy over time!

So don’t forget that your primary care physician plays an integral role in helping you stay healthy! If you are looking for a PCP in the St. Petersburg area, consider choosing one of our physicians at one of our 7 convenient locations. Contact us today!

About the Author: Fadi Saba, M.D.

Avatar of Fadi Saba, M.D.
Dr. Fadi Saba, MD, is an experienced and board-certified physician specializing in internal medicine. With decades of experience and a prestigious American Board of Internal Medicine certification, Dr. Saba is dedicated to delivering high-quality healthcare to his patients at PHC Pinellas.

Contact PHC

white circle caduceus

We’re Waiting To Help You

We encourage you to schedule an appointment with our doctors today. Our staff is dedicated to providing you with the best possible care.