Primary care physicians are an essential source of care for individuals of all ages. They provide preventive services, diagnose and help to treat acute and chronic conditions, and address emotional well-being. Knowing when and how often to visit a primary care provider is important in order to keep oneself healthy. This blog post will explain the definition of primary care, provide guidelines on the recommended frequency of primary care visits based on age, discuss factors affecting primary care frequency, describe common primary care tests, and outline reasons to visit a primary care provider.
Defining Primary Care
Primary care is a branch of medicine that focuses on providing preventive services, diagnosing, and treating acute and chronic conditions. Primary care includes a wide range of specialties including family practice, internal medicine, geriatric medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and general practice. Primary care providers for adults usually have a medical degree in doctor of medicine (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO). Pediatricians have specialized training in caring for children.
There are many benefits to having a primary care provider including:
- Health promotion and disease prevention through regular check-ups
- Diagnosis and treatment of acute conditions such as the common cold
- Diagnosis and treatment of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes
- Coordination with specialists
- Guidance for emotional well-being
- Counseling about lifestyle changes
- Medication management
- Referrals for medical tests or healthcare services
Recommended Frequency of Primary Care Visits by Age
Birth to Age 2
Infants and toddlers should be seen by their pediatrician at least four times during the first year of life – at two weeks, two months, four months, six months, nine months and one year old – for immunizations, developmental screenings, physical examination, growth monitoring, nutrition counseling, safety advice and more. After the first year of life visits should be based on individual needs but are usually scheduled at least once every two to three months until age two years old.
Ages 3 to 21
From early childhood to turning into a young adult, regular check-ups with a primary care provider should occur at least once per year or as recommended by your provider based on age-appropriate needs. These visits typically include physical exams, immunizations and tests as recommended by the provider.
Ages 22 to 65
Adults aged 22 through 65 should visit their primary care provider annually unless they are dealing with an illness or condition that requires more frequent visits. During these visits vital signs such as weight, height and body mass index (BMI) will be taken along with other tests as recommended by your doctor for your age group.
Age 65 and Older
Individuals aged 65 and older should visit a primary care provider twice per year unless otherwise directed by their provider due to specific health needs or risk factors. In addition to physical exams and other tests related to age appropriate care these visits often include an in-depth evaluation of functional decline related to aging such as falls risk assessments or evaluations for memory problems.
Factors Affecting Primary Care Frequency
The overall health of the individual will impact the frequency at which they need to visit their primary care provider. For example, those who have complex medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease likely need more frequent visits than those who do not have any chronic conditions in order to properly manage their illness with their provider’s help.
The right frequency of primary care visits depends on a person’s age and health status. It is important to establish a relationship with a primary care provider to ensure that all bases are covered to monitor and maintain good health. By understanding the various tests and screenings that may be performed during a primary care visit, as well as the importance of regular visits, individuals can ensure they are getting the best primary care possible. With this knowledge, individuals can be more proactive in their own healthcare and make sure they are receiving the right frequency of primary care visits to meet their needs.