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Important Primary Care Medical Services

Primary care practitioners can provide a variety of medical services to people of all ages. In most situations, they are the entrance to the health care system. For more complex medical conditions, the patient is referred to other medical specialists.

Most common conditions treated in a primary care

The most common patient visits to primary care offices include high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, depressive disorders, and acute respiratory infections. The majority of these visits will have follow-up visits over time because they are chronic conditions.


Reasons someone would go to the emergency department

You should visit the emergency department-not your primary care-if you are experiencing any of the following:

-trouble breathing

-pain in the chest, arm, or jaw

-unusual or bad headache, especially if it started suddenly

-sudden inability to speak, see, walk, or move

-sudden weakness or drooping on one side of the body

-heavy bleeding

-serious burn

-coughing or throwing up blood

-severe allergic reaction with trouble breathing, swelling, hives


Many of these symptoms can indicate a heart attack, stroke, internal bleeding, and other serious diagnoses. Urgent care centers cannot do much for you in these situations, and they will likely send you on to the emergency department or call an ambulance for you.


What primary care providers look for during an annual physical

During your annual physical, your weight and weight will be measured, in addition to your hearing, vision, blood pressure, heart rate, BMI, ears, nose, and throat checks. Cancer screenings and blood draws are also common depending on your age.


Your immunization record is also reviewed to see if any immunizations are recommended based on your health status and age. Common immunizations include a tetanus booster every ten years, pneumonia and shingles shots, and annual flu vaccines.


Difference between an annual physical and an office visit

An annual physical is a comprehensive exam done once a year and is often covered completely by insurance. The annual physical is completely preventative in trying to avoid illness and find ways to make lifestyle changes to encourage good health down the road.


An office visit is when a patient makes an appointment for a specific issue to review with their provider. These visits focus on a health concern or issue and are billed to your insurance differently than an annual physical.


What do the letters behind my primary care provider’s name mean?

MD=Medical Doctor

DO=Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine

NP=Nurse Practitioner

PA=Physician’s Assistant

PA-C=Physician’s Assistant Certified by the NCCPA

APRN=Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (can be a nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, or nurse practitioner)

PMHNP=Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

FNP=Family Nurse Practitioner

WHNP=Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

FNP-BC=Family Nurse Practitioner Board Certified by the ANCC


Any primary care provider that you see should have training in primary care or family medicine. They will likely have their credentials displayed somewhere in the office, or you can always ask where they were trained.


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