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How to choose a primary care doctor

Internist. Family medicine physician. General practitioner. The list goes on…which primary care doctor is the best one for you?

Choosing the right primary care doctor for your routine care is an important step in maintaining and improving your health. You’ll see this doctor for wellness visits, routine screenings, diagnosing and treating illnesses, managing chronic conditions and for referrals to specialists. It’s healthy to find a physician who fits your personality and your health needs—visit the office or book a virtual visit.

Scott Ramshur, M.D., a Piedmont family medicine physician, says, “Primary care is the quarterback for a patient’s care. In a large healthcare system like Piedmont, where patients may see multiple doctors, this is especially important.”

5 types of primary care doctors

Primary care physicians focus on general healthcare. While there is overlap in primary care specialties, here are the differences:

  • An internal medicine physician focuses on adults’ specific needs and health risks.

  • A pediatrician cares for children and teenagers.

  • A family medicine doctor offers comprehensive care to patients of all ages, from infancy through mature adulthood.

  • A geriatrician specializes in treating older adults, especially those age 65 and up.

  • An OB-GYN provides female health exams, mammograms, family planning treatment and routine and high-risk pregnancy care.

If you need preventive care, a family practice or internal medicine doctor is usually your best option. For specialized treatment, your doctor can refer you to a specialist who has more extensive training.

In urban areas, there tends to be more specialization, adds Dr. Ramshur. In more rural areas, family practice or general medicine doctors usually handle a broader range than they would in urban and suburban locations.

Build a relationship with your doctor

Your relationship with your primary care provider can last many years. Dr. Ramshur suggests finding a doctor you feel comfortable with and trust. The more comfortable you feel with sharing information about your health and lifestyle, the better and more personalized long-term care your physician will be able to provide.     

Whichever doctor you choose, it’s helpful to have an integrated network of practices and providers easily accessible.

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