Primary healthcare is a broad-based ambulatory healthcare service that covers personal, primary and steady medical aid for individuals, families and communities regardless of the age, gender or disease of the patient. After graduating from a medical school, the degree of a general practitioner (non-specialized physician) is granted. However, in most European countries it is possible to become a specialized doctor by entering residency training. After finishing the selected residency program, the degree of a specialized physician or a family physician is granted.
General practitioners see patients in their office, make home visits, and sometimes work in hospitals. In the process of diagnosing and drawing up a treatment plan, a general practitioner takes not only the results of the general examination and the tests performed, but also psychological and social aspects into account. A general practitioner makes a preliminary medical decision on every problem that the patient presents. Specialized physicians, family physicians and general practitioners offering primary healthcare can often be met in polyclinics and health centres, but in many countries in private practice as well.
The duties of a general practitioner include the primary diagnostics and treatment of practically all the diseases. If the disease is more difficult and complicated than usual or if the symptoms are serious, the general practitioner will direct the patient to a specialized physician dedicated to certain diseases or treatment modalities.
Most frequently, general practitioners diagnose and treat skin diseases, cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases, pediatric diseases, diseases of ear, nose and throat, eye diseases, bone and joint diseases, nerve diseases, diabetes, thyroid disorders, renal deficiency, infectious diseases, viral infections of upper respiratory tract, sexually transmitted diseases, gut parasites, women’s diseases, prostate diseases, problems related to cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism, and gastrointestinal diseases, but general practitioners have other responsibilites, like vaccination, as well. Primary healthcare has two important aspects: general practioners provide first medical aid, but have also an important role as “gatekeepers” who select and direct patients to specialized physicians.
General practitioners help their patients to orient in a complicated world of medicine, and provide treatment in case of simple or chronic diseases and various health problems. However, general practitioners usually do not provide first aid to urgent or emergency patients unless working in an emergency medical center or an emergency response center. General practitioners play a very important role in preventive health care and screening for various diseases. General practitioners also observe and treat patients with type II diabetes (DM II), hypertension, chronic renal deficiency, and chronic heart failure.
General practitioner’s consultation€25–€100
A general practitioner or a primary care physician is a medical doctor whose work is not limited to one specific medical field. A general practitioner’s duties include initial assessment of patients with acute or chronic illnesses, and their treatment and monitoring. If necessary, the general practitioner refers the patient to a hospital or a specialized physician. General practitioners treat patients as whole persons, paying attention not only to their physical, but also psychological and social aspects. In Estonia, primary medical care is provided by family doctors.