What Falls Under Primary Care?

primary care doctor examining patient's earYou’ve probably heard that it’s a good idea to have a primary care doctor, but what exactly is primary care, anyway? With all the medical jargon and specialties out there, it’s easy to get confused. Let’s take a closer look at primary care and what services fall under this important medical discipline.

Primary Care Defined

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), primary care addresses the broader determinants of health and entails whole-person care for medical needs throughout one’s lifespan, not just during bouts with specific diseases. Aptly named, primary care is a person’s “primary” or first source of care when symptoms develop, as well as a source of ongoing wellness and preventive health services.

Here are a few specific examples—you may visit a primary care physician to:

  • Ask questions about unusual health changes you are experiencing, such as headaches, back pain or a sensitive stomach
  • Receive treatment for a common, acute (temporary) illness, such as a cold, sinus infection or the flu
  • Receive ongoing care for chronic (long-term) conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis or high blood pressure
  • Receive wellness and preventive health services, including annual physicals, check-ups, flu shots and other routine immunizations

Primary care doctors often serve as a “home base” for patients with more complex medical needs. For example, a primary care doctor will refer a patient to a specialist—such as a gastroenterologist, cardiologist or gynecologist—if the patient has a medical need that extends outside of the primary care doctor’s expertise of general, day-to-day health. This primary care doctor will review medical information provided by the specialist to keep tabs on the patient’s progress and help ensure appropriate treatment.

When to Seek Emergency Care

Some scenarios call for emergency care, not a visit with a primary care doctor. Go to the emergency room or call 911 immediately if you or someone around you has:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lost consciousness
  • Sudden vision changes, confusion or trouble speaking
  • A wound with uncontrolled bleeding
  • Been involved in a motor vehicle accident, near-drowning incident or another traumatic event

In short, always seek emergency care if you fear loss of life, limb or vision.

Our Approach to Primary Care

Tufts Medical Center Community Care is pleased to offer world-class primary care services to adults and children in communities across north suburban Boston. Our multispecialty medical group of more than 100 clinicians includes a growing team of doctors—including internal medicine and family medicine physicians—who provide comprehensive primary care at easy accessible locations throughout the area. Our large staff means we typically have better appointment availability than most other local medical providers, and we’re able to offer convenient telemedicine services to patients, when appropriate.

Contact Tufts Medical Center Community Care today to learn more about our community-based primary care services or to schedule an appointment with a physician on our team. You may also request an appointment quickly and easily on our website. Most major health insurance plans are accepted at our practice, including Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare.

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Patient Portal

myTuftsMed is our new online patient portal that provides you with access to your medical information in one place. MyTuftsMed can be accessed online or from your mobile device providing a convenient way to manage your health care needs from wherever you are.

With myTuftsMed, you can:

  1. View your health information including your medications, test results, scheduled appointments, medical bills even if you have multiple doctors in different locations.
  2. Make appointments at your convenience, complete pre-visit forms and medical questionnaires and find care or an emergency room.
  3. Connect with a doctor no matter where you are.
  4. Keep track of your children’s and family members’ medical care, view upcoming appointments, book visits and review test results.
  5. Check in on family members who need extra help, all from your private account.


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