Top Reasons for Primary Care Visits

Tom G. Bartol, NP


February 04, 2019

The Top Reasons for Primary Care Encounters

As the main point of entry to the healthcare system, primary care providers (PCPs) see perhaps the broadest range of conditions and concerns of all medical specialties. A recent systematic review[1] of 18 studies from 12 countries sought to determine the most common reasons for patient encounters in primary care. The researchers compared the perspectives of clinicians (the presenting conditions of patients in primary care encounters) and unreferred patients (why they made appointments with PCPs).

The 10 most common clinician- and patient-reported reasons for primary care visits, in both developed and developing countries, are shown in the Table.

Table. Most Common Reasons for Visits to Primary Care, All Countries

Rank Clinician-reported Patient-reported
1 Upper respiratory tract infections Cough
2 Hypertension Back pain
3 Routine health maintenance/td> Abdominal symptoms
4 Arthritis Pharyngitis
5 Diabetes Dermatitis
6 Depression or anxiety Dermatitis
7 Pneumonia Headache
8 Acute otitis media Leg symptoms
9 Back pain Unspecified respiratory concerns
10 Dermatitis Fatigue

However, the top 10 reasons for primary care visits in developed countries (including the United States) differed slightly and were (in descending order):

  • Hypertension

  • Upper respiratory tract infections

  • Depression or anxiety

  • Back pain

  • Routine health maintenance

  • Arthritis (excluding back)

  • Dermatitis

  • Acute otitis media

  • Diabetes

  • Cough

  • Medication management

  • Urinary tract infection


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