Many people wonder: what is the difference between a primary care doctor and any other medical doctor? Do I really need a primary care doctor just to get blood tests or receive treatment for my diarrhea? The answer: YES. Primary care doctors, or PCPs, play an essential role in your preventative medicine, as well as management of chronic conditions, referrals to other medical doctors who are specialists, and treatment of illnesses from stomach ulcers to viruses. Medical doctors who are classified as primary care providers help their patients with general conditions: yearly physicals, blood work, routine screenings, vaccinations, etc. However, when a patient needs to be seen by a more specialized medical doctor, many insurances will not cover a visit without a referral from a primary care doctor. Oftentimes, your primary care doctor will either be able to treat your condition, or send you to a medical doctor who can. Regardless, seeing your primary care doctor is Step One to being on your way to healing. Keep in mind that a primary care doctor doesn’t always need to be an MD to give you care-Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and Physician’s Assistants (PAs) are also qualified and capable of providing excellent primary care. Family care doctors and primary care doctors are often in short supply, especially in Manhattan medical offices. Rather than wait for months to see someone about that ear infection or get your blood work done before a procedure, ask your doctor’s office if there is an NP or PA available to see you instead.