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Medical Care Types

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Primary Care

Secondary care

Tertiary care

In medicine, primary care is a term used for a health care provider who acts as a first point of consultation for all patients. Generally, primary care physicians are based in the community, as opposed to the hospital. Alternative names for the field are general practice and family medicine, although the terms are not synonymous.

Primary care physicians usually include family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, and at times OB/GYN physicians. It is important to note, however, that the last three of the above specialties are not technically general medicine specialties. These specialties are primary care, but NOT general medicine.

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Secondary care

Services provided by medical specialists who generally do not have first contact with patients (e.g., cardiologist, urologists, dermatologists). In the US, however, there has been a trend toward self-referral by patients for these services, rather than referral by primary care providers. This is quite different from the practice in the UK and Canada, for example, where all patients must first seek care from primary care providers and are then referred to secondary and/or tertiary care providers, as needed. In Canada, this is because the secondary providers will not be paid by the publicly funded health care system unless the patient has been assessed by a primary care provider (a hospital emergency room doctor is considered a primary care provider, as is a general practitioner or family doctor).

Tertiary careIn medicine, tertiary healthcare is specialized consultative care, usually on referral from primary or secondary medical care personnel, by specialists working in a center that has personnel and facilities for special investigation and treatment.Specialist cancer care, neurosurgery (brain surgery), burns care and plastic surgery are examples of tertiary care services. In comparison, secondary medical care is the medical care provided by a physician who acts as a consultant at the request of the primary physician.



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