How does your primary care team work with specialists?
Your primary care practice is your ‘medical home’ – your entry point into the health care system. Most people receive basic care, such as health screenings, visits for mild or moderate illness or injury or yearly well visits at a chosen primary care office. How do primary care providers work with specialists if your medical needs go beyond the everyday?
John Manna, FNP, explained who is on your typical primary care team and how primary care can work alongside specialists to give you whole-body health care when you need it most.
Who is on a typical primary care team?
“A primary care team isn’t just a doctor,” said Manna. “Your primary care provider might be a physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistance. The team will include others as well, like registered nurses, licensed practical nurses or medical assistants. Everyone works together as a team to provide patients with the best care, improving health outcomes along the way.”
How do primary care providers work with specialists?
“Primary care providers really get the ball rolling with specialist care if it’s needed,” said Manna. “They’ll be ordering tests and imaging prior to referring or sending a patient on to the specialist, getting a better idea of what’s going on so they can ensure the patient is seen by the right specialist in a timely manner.”
Your primary care team can also communicate with the specialist or their own team if needed prior to a specialist appointment. With imaging or tests performed before the specialist appointment even happens, this allows the specialist to make the most of their time with the patient, since they’ll already have information they need for more effective treatment.
What kinds of tests do primary care doctors run?
“Primary care providers run a lot of different tests, labs and imaging if needed,” said Manna. “General health screenings are usually performed in primary care offices, like testing your A1C (blood sugar), iron levels, cholesterol and blood pressure. If the primary care provider isn’t able to run a specific test you need, they’ll be able to get you to the correct specialist who can.”
What is a typical well visit like at a primary care office?
During your well visit, usually performed annually, you’ll undergo some basic health screenings and discuss your overall health with the primary care provider. These visits are really essential to your overall health, as regular primary care visits can not only help you get an accurate look at potential changes to your blood pressure or other health markers, having a primary care provider who gets to know you can even save your life.
“These well visits aren’t a time you’ll address acute needs, such as illnesses, but work better as a time where you and your primary care provider ensure there aren’t any gaps in your care,” said Manna. “Depending on your age, risk factors or family history, the provider may decide to order lab work or appropriate cancer screenings like a colonoscopy or mammogram. Yearly well visits with a primary care provider are very important for you to achieve optimal health, and to detect illness or health conditions early when they’re most effectively treated.”
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