A primary care physician is a doctor who is responsible for an individuals routine health care and overall wellness. They are involved in doing annual wellness exams and recommending routine screening in order to detect disease early. Early detection of disease can lead to proper management and even cure in certain cases. A primary care physician can take care of most of your routine chronic illness as well acute illness.
Having a primary care physician has many benefits. Once you have a relationship with a primary care provider, you will have an advocate for your health. You will have a doctor who knows your medical history, can help you avoid unnecessary visits to the emergency room or urgent care and save you money. Having continuity of care with the same primary care physician leads to better overall health, as that doctor will help you with your health goals.
So, what is the difference between the specialties that perform primary care? It is easy to understand that pediatricians see children, usually up to the age of 18. Geriatricians specialize in elder patients. Where it can be confusing is knowing the difference between and internist and a family medicine specialist. Internists are specialists in "adult medicine". Family medicine doctors that are board certified in family medicine have completed a 3 year residency in family medicine and passed the board exam. They have also maintained current educational requirements to maintain their certification status with the American Board of Medical Specialties.
While internists and family medicine doctors do many of the same things, family medicine doctors also receive extensive training in pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology as well as surgery. Family doctors will usually take care of multiple generations in the same family. This often gives the family doctor a better insight to a person's health as the doctor is familiar with the dynamics of the family.