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Primary Care vs. Secondary Care: What’s The Difference?

You’ve likely heard the terms primary care and secondary care at some point in your life, perhaps even from a health professional, or your insurance plan. But what do they mean, and why should you understand the difference?

The terms often point to the type of medical services the patient will be receiving, but in some cases, it can get a lot more complicated than that.

Here’s a quick guide from denova Healthcare to help you understand each type of care, and how they impact you.


What Is Primary Care?

Primary care is the first level of care that patients receive and is focused on patient wellness, prevention of health conditions and management of a chronic disease. Primary care can also take care of acute ailments such as urinary tract infections, colds, injuries, headaches and sexually transmitted infections and more. Typically, primary care is the first place people go when they need health advice or treatment.


What Is Secondary Care?

Secondary care refers to all the medical services the patient will receive after they’ve had their primary care doctor see them. For example, you may visit your family care doctor because you have a bad headache. Your doctor orders a scan, and then they refer you to a neurologist for a consultation.

That neurologist falls under the secondary care scope. Your primary care doctor assesses your initial state, and might even recommend certain treatment, but to ensure you are getting the best medical services, they will refer you to a secondary care doctor who specializes in the specific medical need you’re experiencing.

Cardiologists, rheumatologists, immunologists, dermatologists are also common examples of secondary care doctors. Of course, in some cases, the patient can book an appointment with these specialists directly, but a lot of the time, medical specialists will require a patient to have a referral from a primary care practitioner.

Secondary care includes more than medical specialists. Hospital care also falls under this category, no matter if short-term or long-term. If you are hospitalized, it means you are receiving secondary care services.

Certain therapists may also be considered secondary care, such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, or other health professionals that provide such services.

Often, the patient will first visit their primary care doctor who will then refer them to a physical therapist, for instance, to receive additional healthcare support.


denova’ Integrated Approach to Your Health

At denova, we believe it’s important to treat the entire person, not just the medical issue. Our integrated approach to health means we help our patients not just with their health concerns, but also make the incremental changes they need for their health and wellbeing.

Schedule an appointment with denova Healthcare today.

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We’re here 24/7 to help you get the care you need to live life on your terms, without drugs or alcohol. Talk to our recovery specialists today and learn about our integrated treatment programs.

Amanda Keenhold, LAC

Licensed Associate Counselor

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