It’s a Big Decision

Primary care plays a key role in keeping you as healthy as possible and forms the foundation of your life-long health care strategy. But much like saving for retirement, choosing and establishing a relationship with a primary care provider, or PCP, is a long-term investment.

Did you know there are different types of primary care physicians? Which kind you choose depends a lot on your needs and the stage of life you’re in.

Expand each section or download our infographic to learn more.

General internal medicine practitioners, often called general internists or internists, are a kind of primary care physician who focused on preventing, diagnosing and treating ongoing health issues that can affect our major organs. They often serve as primary care specialists because of their broad and intensive training.

Who they treat: Generally, adults over the age of 18

Training completed

  • Medical school
  • Three-year residency in internal medicine with concentrated training on the body’s internal organ systems

Family practice physicians treat a range of routine health conditions, but they may also provide some specialty care, such as treatment of sports injuries, minor surgeries or OB/GYN care. They are able to diagnose a broad spectrum of conditions and illnesses spanning multiple age groups.

Who They Treat: Family practice physicians generally treat all ages, from newborns to elderly.

Training Completed

  • Medical school
  • Three-year residency in family medicine

As we age, it’s more likely that we’ll experience more than a few ongoing health problems, which increases the complexity of the care we need. In addition, diseases and medications can affect us differently the older we get. Certain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, more often affect us at advanced ages. Geriatricians specifically focus on these areas. They help prevent, manage and develop care plans to address issues such as memory loss, arthritis, osteoporosis, mobility and balance and Alzheimer’s.

Who they treat: Generally, people who are 65 and older

Often called OB/GYNs, obstetricians and gynecologists are physicians who focus on managing women’s reproductive health, including pregnancy, labor and birth. They also treat diseases that affect the female reproductive system. Gynecologists focus on reproductive health, while obstetricians work with patients to promote healthy pregnancies or manage more complex ones.

While OB/GYNs are a type of primary care physician, they are also considered specialists and surgeons. Which is why it’s still important to have a general primary care practitioner, such as an internist or family physician. OB/GYNs may not see patients for sick visits, such as the flu or respiratory infections. Plus annual physical exams and yearly gynecologic exams don’t cover the same health screenings or provide the same type of wellness and preventive care. If you want to use your OB/GYN for primary care, talk to them first.

Who they treat: Women ranging in ages from pre-teen, teen, young adults and women in childbearing age, as well as women in menopause and beyond.

Pediatricians manage physical, behavioral and mental health issues that are particular to children’s health - everything from preventive care to the diagnosis and treatment of serious childhood illnesses.

Who They Treat: Newborns to 18 years. Pediatricians cannot be a primary care physician for adults.

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