A primary care clinic is a medical facility that focuses on the initial treatment of medical ailments. In most cases, the conditions seen at the clinic are not serious, or not considered life threatening. If there is a condition discovered at a primary care clinic that may be considered extremely dangerous to the patient, a referral to a specialist may be made. Doctors at these clinics usually include internists, family physicians and pediatricians.
In most cases, a primary care physician will be the first stop in the line of treatment for a patient. These physicians are trained to handle a variety of problems, and usually referral to a specialist is not necessary. Further, primary care doctors may also handle routine matters, such as annual checkups, or any follow-up care needed. In some cases, the major care may be handled by a specialist, but the patient can return to the primary care clinic for the follow-up care.
Insurance often requires a patient to begin treatment with a primary care physician, most of whom either work in private practice or in a primary care clinic. This typically represents the cheapest option for the insurance company. For those who do not want to submit a claim to their insurance company or who do not have insurance, the clinic will also be the cheapest option for them. The containment of cost is just one of the reason why the primary care clinic has become so pivotal to health care in many different countries, including the United States.
The doctors at a primary care facility must undergo extensive training and be licensed to practice medicine. Therefore, while they are not deemed specialists, most have a rather broad range of knowledge in medicine, and can diagnose, or at least offer a preliminary diagnosis, on many different ailments. For treatment and further testing, a specialist may be recommended. In some cases, this is not because the primary care physician does not have the knowledge to treat the problem, but simply because his or her medical malpractice insurance limits what can be done at the primary level.
Primary care clinics are becoming more popular, as the delivery of medicine becomes more centralized, and patients demand more convenience. The clinic model provides a number of advantages over private practice. The doctor can take time off and still have his or patients taken care of, and the doctor often has a steady stream of patients and income. Further, tasks such as billing are handled by other departments, leaving the doctor to worry only about treating patients.
While there are benefits to the clinic model, there are also some disadvantages as well. Doctors often do not get to set their own schedules and must be at the clinic a certain number of hours per week. Also, there may be extreme demands on the doctor's time if working at a very busy clinic. The doctor may be pressured to spend less time with each patient.