A primary care physician is a physician who provides both the first contact for a person with an undiagnosed health concern as well as continuing care of varied medical conditions, not limited by cause, organ system, or diagnosis. Since recently, the term is primarily used in the United States. In the past in the US and still in the United Kingdom (and in many other English-speaking countries), the equivalent term was/is general practitioner.
All physicians first complete medical school (MD, MBBS, or DO). To become primary care physicians, medical school graduates then undertake postgraduate training in primary care programs, such as family medicine (also called family practice or general practice in some countries), pediatrics or internal medicine. Some HMOs consider gynecologists as PCPs for the care of women and have allowed certain subspecialists to assume PCP responsibilities for selected patient types, such as allergists caring for people with asthma and nephrologists acting as PCPs for patients on kidney dialysis.
Emergency physicians are sometimes counted as primary care physicians. Emergency physicians see many primary care cases, but in contrast to family physicians, pediatricians and internists, they are trained and organized to focus on episodic care, acute intervention, stabilization, and discharge or transfer or referral to definitive care, with less of a focus on chronic conditions and limited provision for continuing care