Q: What is the difference between internal medicine and family medicine?
A
: Both internal medicine and family medicine physicians are considered primary care physicians. Internal and family medicine physicians focus on a patient’s long-term, continuing care.

Internal medicine physicians provide complex, comprehensive care for adults—adolescents through geriatrics. They offer acute and chronic care, and also address preventative and health maintenance care.

A family medicine physician sees patients from birth through end of life, focusing on continuing care for preventative, wellness, acute and complex health concerns for the entire family. Family Medicine physicians may also be trained in pediatric and women’s health (obstetric) care services.

Q: I already have a specialist, why do I need a primary care physician?
A:
A primary care physician (PCP)—family or internal medicine physician—is a very important healthcare partner to have when it comes to managing your health and wellness over time. While your specialist may help treat some of your specific health problems and issues, he or she may not be aware of your other health concerns or be able to treat them.

Your PCP helps to coordinate your overall care and has the ability to get to know you—your values, lifestyle, goals, etc.—over an extended period of time, thus making it easier for him or her to advocate for your health and identify health concerns. A PCP serves as both your main point of contact for health questions and as a key resource. He or she can give you comprehensive health care advice based on your past medical history and existing conditions, and refer you to the appropriate specialists based on your unique needs should it be necessary.

Q: What are the best ways to stay healthy?
A: There are many things you can do to optimize your overall health. A good start point to staying healthy includes the following:

  • Make a point of getting regular exercise. Your routine should consist of at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, plus stretching and strength training.
  • Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables at every meal.  Also be sure that you are including whole grains, calcium-rich foods and lean proteins in your diet.
  • Find time to relax. This will help manage stress and can keep you physically and mentally healthy.

It is also important to regularly visit your physician. He or she can help keep you on track and offer you suggestions for ways to improve.

Q: How can I lose weight?
A: The best way to manage your weight is to focus on portion control. Along with eating a healthy, balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy and lean proteins, you’ll also want to be sure to drink plenty of water and make exercise a part of your daily routine. The best way to lose weight is to adopt healthy eating and exercise habits.

You may not see immediate weight loss results, but you should feel better and have more energy very shortly after making these changes. Before beginning any new diet or exercise program, you should consult with your primary care physician.

Q: How do my genetics and family medical history factor into my risk for certain diseases and conditions?
A: Knowing your family medical history is the first step to determining your risk of certain diseases and conditions. If you have a family medical history of a particular disease such as breast or colon cancer, heart disease or diabetes, you may have an increased risk for getting this condition and may benefit from genetic testing and preventative screening.

While you cannot change your genetic makeup, there are many lifestyle changes you can employ to help reduce your risk. These include living a healthy lifestyle through proper diet and regular exercise.

NorthShore patients can also participate in Health Heritage, a secure online application that allows patients to create a family health history, generate personalized health risk records and share this information with relatives.

Q: What immunizations do I need to get as an adult?
A: While adults do not have as vigorous a schedule of immunizations as children do, there is still a need to have some immunizations updated. It is recommended that all adults receive the annual flu (influenza) shot. A full listing of other recommended immunizations schedules for adults can be viewed on this document. It is also important to keep in mind that if you are travelling out of the country, you may want to consider additional immunizations.

Q: When should I schedule an appointment versus coming in for immediate care during walk-in hours?
A: You should plan to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician for any wellness check-up or exam. You should also schedule an appointment if you want to review and discuss any ongoing or chronic health concerns as well as follow-up care for a chronic medical condition.

Immediate care appointments during same-day and walk-in hours are meant to address a sudden illness that requires more urgent attention. This could include pain from a fall, sinus or upper respiratory infection or other illnesses. Any general wellness or follow-up care to a more chronic illness is best addressed at a scheduled appointment. If your medical issue cannot wait, you may want to consider going to the Emergency Department.

Q: Will my specialist have access to my medical record?
A: If you are referred to a NorthShore specialist, he or she will have access to your medical information through our electronic medical records system. If you are seeing a specialist outside of the NorthShore system, you can request a copy of your records from our Medical Records Department at 847.982.4450.

Q: How often do I need to come in for a physical or general check-up?
A: How often you need to schedule a physical or general check-up with your physician will depend on your age, gender and overall health. We recommend that any adult who suffers from a chronic illness, such as diabetes, hypertension or obesity, schedule more regular appointments. If you require prescription medications to be renewed, you may also need to schedule more regular appointments. In terms of frequency, it is best to discuss an exact time frame with your physician.

Q: Why wasn’t I prescribed antibiotics for my cold?
A: Antibiotics are most effective when used to treat illnesses derived from bacteria. The common cold is often caused by a viral infection. Prescribing an antibiotic for a viral infection will not help treat the symptoms, and can lead to a bacterial resistance. It is important to note that there is no cure-all for everything. A cold can often be combated with plenty of rest, a balanced diet and by drinking plenty of fluids.

Q: What is considered “too sick” for coming into the office?
A: You will likely see your primary care physician in times of both sickness and health. If you are experiencing any alarming symptoms such as chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath, severe bleeding, a sudden loss of mobility or cognitive function, it is recommended that you go to the Emergency Department immediately. You may also want to go to the Emergency Department if your condition seems serious or has worsened.

If you are not experiencing any critical symptoms but would still consider yourself “too ill” to come in for an appointment or if your health has not improved after trying home remedies, you could likely benefit from seeing (or at the very least speaking) with your physician. Depending on your symptoms, your physician or someone on the clinical staff may be able to advise you on treatment options either over the phone or through NorthShoreConnect. In most cases a proper assessment of your illness is required for ordering prescription medications.

Q: Why do I need to see my physician to be able to renew my prescriptions?
A: Depending on the medication prescribed, it may be necessary for your physician to renew your prescription in-person at an appointment after you have exceeded the number of refills allowed.

For ongoing prescription medications it is important for you to meet with your physician as your medical condition, dosing and follow-up care may change. Scheduling an appointment to review your medical list with your physician gives you the opportunity to review your health, medical treatments and evaluate the best follow-up and maintenance care plans available for your needs.

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