Decision Decoder: What Kind of Primary Care Provider Do You Want?

Choosing a primary care provider can be overwhelming. If you’re trying to understand the differences between all the titles and types—keep reading; you’ve come to the right place.
Board Certified Internal Medicine Provider
If you’re over 18 and are looking for a provider who encompasses a wide range of medical needs, a board-certified internal medicine physician may be able to help you. Beyond basic wellness, According to the American College of Physicians, board-certified internal medicine providers have the knowledge and authority to diagnose, treat, and manage a range of common to complex illnesses, emphasizing organs and internal systems. They also can and will work with other healthcare providers when necessary to fill the gaps in a patient’s treatment plan.
The organization explains that board-certified internal medicine providers are the providers you’d go to for general wellness checks or for diagnosing and treating illnesses with modern medicine.
However, according to the American Board of Certification, “ABIM certification sets you apart and demonstrates to your peers and patients that you are an expert physician in your discipline. Research indicates that ABIM Board Certified physicians make fewer diagnostic errors, are more likely to adhere to recommended guidelines, have lower mortality rates in their patients, and are current in their medical knowledge.”
Family Medicine Specialist
If you are generally healthy but want a professional to help you keep track of your wellness—think annual physical exams or “checkups”—you might find that a family medicine specialist is the perfect fit. As the name may suggest, family medicine specialists care for the whole family from birth to adulthood.
New York-Presbyterian and Piedmont Healthcare describe family medicine specialists as “generalists.” Family medicine providers offer preventative care and health maintenance to their patients. This doctor would probably be considered your “go-to” if something different is happening with your health, you are under treatment for common ailments, or you need a referral or recommendation to see someone more specialized. Family medicine specialists often stick with families for years, building close relationships and making them the perfect providers for long-term healthcare needs.
Nurse Practitioner (NP)
The Cleveland Clinic defines Nurse practitioners (NP) as nurses with advanced clinical training and education. With their graduate-level degrees, N.P.s can work independently or closely with a medical doctor. They have the ability and authority to do various things, such as perform physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, and analyze test results.
Depending on the state that your N.P. is in, they may be able to serve as a primary care provider or a specialty care provider for those with more unique medical needs. Depending on their location and level of training, an N.P. may even be able to prescribe medication.
Because N.P.s are generally less booked than family doctors or generalists, according to the University of Central Florida Health, they can make an excellent choice as a primary care physician if you’re looking.
So far, so good, right? Right. We’ll cover the following few healthcare professionals who take a more whole-body approach to treating their patients. While they share similar responsibilities, they differ in training and education. Let’s learn more about what they do specifically.
Integrative Medicine Specialist
Providers who fall under the Integrative Medicine category combine different treatment styles when assisting patients in reaching their wellness goals. Think acupuncturists, chiropractors, or herbalists. Integrative medicine specialists will look at your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual state and consider all these aspects to help you improve your overall health.
It’s important to note, though, that integrative medicine specialists don’t replace a primary care doctor–instead, they’ll work alongside one, according to the Cleveland Clinic. If you want to add a care person to your team who can help you combine multiple treatment types, an integrative medicine specialist could be your missing link.
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
A Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) is another choice of care provider who focuses on the big picture when diagnosing and treating their patients. The American Osteopathic Association states that a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine is “trained to recognize the interrelated unity among all systems of the body, each working with the other to promote overall health and wellness.” Additionally, D.O.s learn how to use osteopathic manual medicine, which involves using their hands to diagnose, treat, and manage injuries and illnesses.
A D.O. offers a less conventional treatment method with a (literal) hands-on approach.
Maybe you’re looking for someone to ask more “why?” questions. A naturopathic doctor (ND) is all about digging past your current symptoms to get to the root cause, especially in those who have been chronically ill. “My goal is to help equip patients through empowerment and knowledge,” says Dr. Micah Allen, a Naturopathic Physician and a Licensed Acupuncturist at Essential Natural Health in Richmond, VA.
When working with a naturopath, you can expect them to allow you to have an active role in the partnership. “Accountability is a golden part [of naturopathic care],” says Dr. Allen. While they are trained to use prescription medicine, an N.D. will instinctively start with more holistic approaches if necessary.
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians ensures that Naturopaths can fit in seamlessly with your current healthcare ecosystem.
When choosing the right healthcare team, keeping your comfort level needs and the approach you want to take are all things to consider. Take your time before making a selection. And, if you can, visit or speak with different types of providers to understand their methods and approaches. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions.


Explore more

Stop Letting Others Control Your Life

Stop Letting Others Control Your Life

SUMMARY: In this episode, Brendon teaches… How to focus more on positive life outcomes like life satisfaction, fitness, happiness, and confidence is essential. Why better embracing significant...

You Asked: In a Woman with ADHD, Should You Continue Treatment...

Question: I have a 32-year-old patient with ADHD who stopped her stimulant medication (Concerta 54 mg) during pregnancy. She is now at 34 weeks of...

The Future of Period Pain Relief

Hey there, womanhood warriors! We get you, and we especially get you on those days of the month. Period cramps are a real problem...
Preventive Care: How It Can Save Your Business Money On Health Insurance

Preventive Care: How It Can Save Your Business Money On Health...

As a small business owner in California or Arizona, you already understand the importance of keeping your employees healthy and productive. But you also...

Biosensor technology company Allez Health secures $60M

California-based Allez Health, formerly Zense-Life, announced it secured $60 million in Series A+ financing.  The round was led by strategic investor Osang Healthcare, with participation...
Omega-3 index test

Omega-3 index test and benefits for overall health and well-being

The Omega-3 Index test...
Thousands of NÜTRL tumblers recalled after dozens report illness - National

Thousands of NÜTRL tumblers recalled after dozens report illness – National

A promotional NÜTRL branded tumbler that was recalled in Canada earlier this month caused multiple reports of adverse health effects, an updated notice said...
Dentistry procurement platforms and trends 2024

E-Procurement Platforms, AI, and More Trends from DentalForum 2024

This article was written by the Planet DDS staff and originally published on this year’s DentalForum, leaders from more than two dozen dental...