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Primary Care

Find a professional for Primary Care in Seattle

Primary care is a term used for a health care provider who acts as a first point of consultation for all patients. A primary care physician, or PCP, is a physician who provides both the first contact for a person with an undiagnosed health concern as well as continuing care of varied medical conditions, not limited by cause, organ system, or diagnosis. A PCP generally does not specialize in the treatment of specific organ systems, such as neurology or cardiology, nor can they perform surgery. Generally, PCPs are based in the community, as opposed to the hospital.  Alternative names for the field are general practice and family medicine, although the terms are not synonymous.  Family medicine is a specialty that requires a minimum of three years of residency training and Board Certification. Some experts and groups have included nurse practitioners, physician assistants and naturopathic physicians, by broadening the term to primary care providers.
    A set of skills and scope of practice may define a primary care physician, generally including basic diagnosis and non-surgical treatment of common illnesses and medical conditions.  Diagnostic techniques include interviewing the patient to collect information on the present symptoms, prior medical history and other health details, followed by a physical examination. Many PCPs are trained in basic medical testing, such as interpreting results of blood or other patient samples, electrocardiograms, or x-rays. More complex and time-intensive diagnostic procedures are usually obtained by referral to specialists, due to either special training with a technology, or increased experience and patient volume that renders a risky procedure safer for the patient.  
    After collecting data, the PCP arrives at a differential diagnosis and, with the participation of the patient, formulates a plan including (if appropriate) components of further testing, specialist referral, medication, therapy, diet or life-style changes, patient education, and follow up results of treatment. Primary care physicians also counsel and educate patients on safe health behaviors, self-care skills and treatment options, and provide screening tests and immunizations.

Author: Christopher Holder, ND Candidate '07



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