Until a generation or two ago, Americans relied almost exclusively on family doctors -- also known as general practitioners or primary care physicians -- to provide their medical care. Family doctors delivered babies, made house calls, performed annual check-ups, set broken bones, helped patients manage chronic illness, and even tended to patients in their last months of life. By sharing their patients' lives with them, primary care physicians were able to help them stay healthy by modifying bad habits and taking family history into account.
Primary care medicine - medical care provided by your family physician, your pediatrician, or your gynecologist and their nurses and physician's assistants -- medical experts who see you on a regular basis for wellness check-ups and get to know you over a period of several years or even decades. Most primary care physicians also treat minor medical problems like colds and the flu and help patients with chronic, but manageable conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. They are often the first to notice signs of a more serious illness or condition because they provide continuity of care by seeing patients on a regular basis for many years and noting changes in the patient's health status from one year to the next.
Three types of primary care physicians:
- Family practitioner or general practitioner - specializes in general family care for patients of all ages. They are trained in several basic medical disciplines including internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, general surgery and psychiatry, and can be board-certified.
- Internist - diagnoses and treats disease in adults, though he or she does not perform surgery. Internists may have a subspecialty which focuses on a specific part of the body, such as the heart or lungs; or a specific disease, like diabetes or arthritis; or a particular age group, such as adolescents or the elderly.
- Pediatricians - care for and treat children from birth through the teens. They are often trained in subspecialties, such as pediatric cardiology, gastroenterology, perinatal medicine and pediatric surgery.
A network of relationships - At Atlantic Health System, primary care physicians are key to providing you with the best possible medical care. Our webs of experts -- surgeons, cardiologists, neurophysicians, orthopedists, oncologists and pediatric specialists -- know one another and understand how each specialist works. That comprehensive network enables Atlantic Health System primary care physicians to refer patients who need specialized care to physicians who match them in temperament and values too, enabling patients to really work in partnership with their health care providers.