When you are feeling under the weather, you may need to see a doctor to help you get better. But where do you start? And how do you know if you need urgent, preventive or emergency care?
What is a primary care physician?
You can get established with one of the various types of doctors who cover everyday health concerns, including viruses, flu and COVID-19.
Primary care doctors have medical degrees and training in what’s called internal medicine and see adults, age 18 and up. Other terms commonly used are general practitioner or internist. Some physician assistants and nurse practitioners also offer primary care.
What is a family medicine provider?
Similarly, a provider of family medicine can also care for your seasonal ailments. However, where internal medicine focuses on adults, family doctors are qualified to treat people of all ages, from newborns to seniors. If it’s important for you to bring your family to the same doctor’s office for care, family medicine may be a good fit. Find a family doctor now.
What is a pediatrician?
Pediatricians also see children for preventive health and illnesses. Most people age out of pediatrics between ages 18 to 21.
Why is establishing a primary care provider important?
It’s important for your physician to know your medical history, allergies, vaccines status, etc., and have a baseline for your overall health so they can best examine and treat you for seasonal illnesses.
Physicals are typically scheduled several weeks to months out, so don’t delay if you don’t have a community primary care provider or if you haven’t been seen by your provider of choice for more than a year. Find a primary care physician near me.
What is preventive care?
Of course, there are many reasons to have a primary care or family medicine doctor beyond those described. They are the champions of preventive care. That means they can answer your general health questions, help you manage chronic conditions, give you immunizations, screen to detect health problems and provide healthy lifestyle advice. They also provide referrals to specialists, for example, to the gynecologist for annual women’s wellness visits.
Emergency care vs. urgent care options
If you don’t have an established doctor, you have some other choices for care when you are sick. There are your local urgent cares. These are typically staffed by internal medicine and family medicine doctors, and they can treat coughs, sore throats, fevers and more.
The pros: You don’t need to be established. You can walk-in and be seen. Some offer telehealth visits too. Find an urgent care near me.
The cons: Urgent cares sometimes have longer wait times, especially during flu season. An urgent care provider doesn’t have the same familiarity with your health as a general practitioner or family doctor. There also may be higher out-of-pocket costs. And, if your local urgent cares are experiencing high volumes, you may decide to seek care in an emergency department. It’s best not to use your urgent care as your primary care health partner.
Emergency departments are equipped to care for critically ill patients and therefore, the cost of care is much higher. They prioritize patients based on health problem’s severity. That means if you have milder health concerns, even if your sore throat is painful, or your fever is high, you may wait longer. Find an emergency department.
The bottom line: It’s cold and flu season. Make time now to find a primary care provider who is going to help you manage health issues that pop up, who can also guide your overall health for the long-term. Find a doctor near me now.