When people aren't feeling well but don’t know why, they often turn to their primary care doctors. That's because your primary care doctor is like your own personal health detective — gathering and evaluating information to solve medical mysteries.
Every age group benefits from primary care doctors, from the youngest children to the most senior seniors.
Here, Bruce Huck, MD, an internist at Rush University Medical Center, talks about the role of primary care in health care:
Q: What special training do primary care physicians have?
Huck: Primary care physicians have a tremendous background in the science that underlies the disease process, which helps them take a group of symptoms and connect them to a specific disease or condition that can then be addressed.
Q: How do they connect symptoms with diseases?
Huck: Doctors make those connections by asking a lot of questions.
For example, primary care doctors have many patients who feel fatigued. The doctor would begin by asking very specific questions about the fatigue.
Is it drowsiness, caused by a lack of proper sleep, perhaps due to sleep apnea? Or is it muscle fatigue that is causing weakness and leading to a feeling of being tired? Then we are looking at an entirely different set of potential causes.
We can also order tests, if necessary, to help pinpoint the cause of symptoms. Everything from simple blood tests to more sophisticated imaging. And we will partner with specialists to address or manage any chronic health issues you may have, such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.
Q: What else, besides symptoms, do primary care doctors focus on?
Huck: Primary care often involves going beyond physical symptoms.
Primary care doctors know that social, economic and interpersonal factors all have a direct bearing on someone’s health and feelings of well-being. We help patients make the connections between issues, such as lack of sleep, and their health problems, such as being overweight.