You’ve probably come across the phrase ‘family doctor’ or ‘Family physician’ but if you haven’t, that’s ok. In what follows we will talk about what you need to know regarding having a family doctor and why you probably need one.
What is a family doctor?
First, we need to talk about family medicine. Family medicine is a 'specialty' field of medicine that focuses on giving holistic care to people of all ages and genders. The foundation of family medicine is based on the relationship between the patient and the physician and emphasizes preventive and integrated care. It is safe to say that a family doctor is a medical practitioner that specializes in this field. The word specialty here is a misnomer as they don't really specialize in a particular area of medicine, but rather treat the whole person supporting their patients through different medical needs from births, chronic illness, and end-of-life care.
Family Doctor v General Practitioner
You may have also heard of a General Practitioner or a GP and are wondering what is the difference? Well for the most part there is little difference as they generally do the same jobs. However, they differ in some ways which are explored below. Family doctors focus on meeting the needs of the whole family. They also usually receive training in pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and geriatrics in addition to general medicine. Due to this, a patient can often receive all the care they need in one location. They also mainly focus on preventive care as they treat you through all stages of your life.GPs on the other hand also see patients of any age (usually doesn't include infants) but don't tend to specialize in one area. This means that should further, specific care be needed, they will often refer you to a specialist. General practice doctors tend to focus on the treatment of acute conditions.
Why do you need one?
Family doctors deal with the person as a whole and through all stages of their life. This means that should you have a family doctor they are very well versed in your medical history as well as that of your family. This means that they often have a clearer picture of your medical needs and can focus on preventative care as well as diagnose issues that a GP might not be able to due to knowing your family's history. For example, because Dr. FD has treated your parents and you, you may bring your child in with symptoms of tiredness and irritability, and lightheadedness. In addition to the general tests, he may look for signs of diabetes as on your father's record it is noted that his mother had diabetes putting the family at an increased risk. A GP might have just treated the symptoms, leading you to have multiple follow-up visits.
What are the cons?
The truth? There isn't any downside to having a family doctor (at least none that I could find.) However, in the interest of fairness here are some things that one should watch out for when it comes to having a family doctor.
Finding a Family Doctor
The basis of this specialization of medicine in the patient-doctor relationship emphasis on relationship. This means that you need to be comfortable with whichever physician you choose. This process might require you to shop around a bit which can be frustrating. However, always remember that the doctor you choose may be with you for a long time treating you and your current or future family so you need to be 100% comfortable telling them everything, even things that are not necessarily medical.
It's natural that the cost of things rises as time goes on, that's just the reality of life. Usually, if your doctor is part of a small family practice this isn’t a problem as you may be able to work out a payment schedule should the cost start to rise too much. This may become problematic should the practice be owned or bought by a larger corporation. They may set their own prices, which are out of your budget and may also not allow for structured payments, ultimately forcing you to find a different doctor.
Just like with any job, doctors do retire. This may be a problem that presents itself if you have an older doctor, most usually as a result of the fact that they have been your doctor for a long time (Maybe they initially treated your parents when they were younger). This again will lead to you having to find another doctor.These situations are just some to watch out for. In any case, if it seems that you would not be continuing with your regular doctor ask them to recommend someone for you