What Is the Difference Between Family Medicine & Primary Care?

Happy healthy young womanIf you’ve visited a physician’s office more than a few times in your life, you’ve likely heard your fair share of medical jargon and terminology. And as of late, your health vocabulary has undoubtedly expanded to include terms like “quarantine” and “asymptomatic.” But, can you identify the differences between two of the most basic areas of medicine: family medicine and primary care?

If not, here’s the short answer—primary care focuses on everyday health, encompassing wellness services like physicals, vaccines and check-ups, as well as the treatment and management of common, non-emergent health concerns. You could call it a patient’s medical “home base.” Family medicine, on the other hand, is a medical specialty devoted to the complete and continuing healthcare of every member of the family, both children and adults. Essentially, family medicine physicians provide primary care.

Still confused? No worries, let’s take a deeper dive into these medical terms and what they entail.

Primary Care

Aptly named, a primary care provider (such as a family medicine physician) is a patient’s primary source of treatment for medical concerns. Merriam-Webster defines primary care as “health care provided by a medical professional with whom a patient has initial contact and by whom the patient may be referred to a specialist.” Other medical professionals who provide primary care services include internal medicine physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and general practitioners.

Primary care providers oversee a patient’s basic medical needs, such as treatment for acute illnesses like sinus infections and long-term care for chronic conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure and diabetes. If a patient requires more extensive care from a medical specialist—such as a gastroenterologist or gynecologist—the primary care provider will refer the patient to the appropriate specialist and keep a record of the patient’s progress.

Family Medicine

Family medicine physicians provide primary care services for the whole family. Specifically, a medical professional who specializes in family medicine is trained to meet the basic medical needs of both children and adults, from newborns to seniors (conversely, internal medicine physicians treat adults only). Having an all-in-one source of primary care provides convenience for many busy families—for instance, a mother can consult with her family medicine physician about her allergy symptoms as well as her son’s strep throat. She can also rely on this physician for school physicals, check-ups, flu shots and other preventive health measures.

Our Approach to Healthcare

Tufts Medical Center Community Care’s growing team of more than 120 clinicians includes family medicine physicians, internal medicine physicians and other primary care providers who help patients achieve their best health. As our patient, here’s what you can expect:

  • Ample appointment availability, including weekend and evening appointments
  • Multiple convenient locations throughout north suburban Boston with free parking
  • Access to convenient telemedicine services, when appropriate
  • Expertly coordinated primary and specialty care services

If you’d like to speak with a primary care provider, contact Tufts Medical Center Community Care today or schedule an appointment online. We accept many health insurance plans, 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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