What Is a Primary Care Clinic?

Ken Black

A primary care clinic is a medical facility that focuses on the initial treatment of medical ailments. In most cases, the conditions seen at the clinic are not serious, or not considered life threatening. If there is a condition discovered at a primary care clinic that may be considered extremely dangerous to the patient, a referral to a specialist may be made. Doctors at these clinics usually include internists, family physicians and pediatricians.

A primary care clinic is a medical facility that focuses on the initial treatment of medical ailments.
A primary care clinic is a medical facility that focuses on the initial treatment of medical ailments.

In most cases, a primary care physician will be the first stop in the line of treatment for a patient. These physicians are trained to handle a variety of problems, and usually referral to a specialist is not necessary. Further, primary care doctors may also handle routine matters, such as annual checkups, or any follow-up care needed. In some cases, the major care may be handled by a specialist, but the patient can return to the primary care clinic for the follow-up care.

Visiting a primary care clinic may be ideal for patients who lack health insurance.
Visiting a primary care clinic may be ideal for patients who lack health insurance.

Insurance often requires a patient to begin treatment with a primary care physician, most of whom either work in private practice or in a primary care clinic. This typically represents the cheapest option for the insurance company. For those who do not want to submit a claim to their insurance company or who do not have insurance, the clinic will also be the cheapest option for them. The containment of cost is just one of the reason why the primary care clinic has become so pivotal to health care in many different countries, including the United States.

In most cases, a primary care physician will be the first stop in the line of treatment for a patient.
In most cases, a primary care physician will be the first stop in the line of treatment for a patient.

The doctors at a primary care facility must undergo extensive training and be licensed to practice medicine. Therefore, while they are not deemed specialists, most have a rather broad range of knowledge in medicine, and can diagnose, or at least offer a preliminary diagnosis, on many different ailments. For treatment and further testing, a specialist may be recommended. In some cases, this is not because the primary care physician does not have the knowledge to treat the problem, but simply because his or her medical malpractice insurance limits what can be done at the primary level.

A primary care clinic may recommend a specialist to a patient if they can't effectively treat them.
A primary care clinic may recommend a specialist to a patient if they can't effectively treat them.

Primary care clinics are becoming more popular, as the delivery of medicine becomes more centralized, and patients demand more convenience. The clinic model provides a number of advantages over private practice. The doctor can take time off and still have his or patients taken care of, and the doctor often has a steady stream of patients and income. Further, tasks such as billing are handled by other departments, leaving the doctor to worry only about treating patients.

While there are benefits to the clinic model, there are also some disadvantages as well. Doctors often do not get to set their own schedules and must be at the clinic a certain number of hours per week. Also, there may be extreme demands on the doctor's time if working at a very busy clinic. The doctor may be pressured to spend less time with each patient.

Doctors at a primary care clinic may be internists, family doctors, or pediatricians.
Doctors at a primary care clinic may be internists, family doctors, or pediatricians.

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Discussion Comments

bear78

@literally45-- Yes, definitely. A primary care doctor can run the required blood tests to see if you have high blood sugar (diabetes). So definitely see a primary care doctor soon.

Specialists are usually not required for these things, unless there is some kind of complication that prevents a primary care doctor from treating it properly. In some countries actually, primary care is often done by nurses and other medical practitioners.

For example, I heard that in Britain, diabetics have a diabetes nurse assigned to them who help the patients monitor their blood sugar and teaches them how to use insulin and take medications.

literally45

I suspect that I may have diabetes. Can I have it diagnosed at a primary care clinic or do I need to go to a specialist?

burcinc

It is also often the case that the primary care physician does not have the knowledge to treat a condition. Primary care physicians are general physicians who basically know a little bit about everything. They are equipped to diagnose and treat most routine issues such as infections. But they are not specialists. So if a condition is not a routine one and is specific to a particular part of the body, then a specialist will be able to treat it.

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