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The Role and Value of a Family Physician

By Dr. Mehrtash Amini

Among the many different types of medical doctors and specialists in practice today, where does a family physician fit in? Primarily, they fit in with their community.

They are uniquely positioned in the community, providing dedicated, hands-on care to each patient who comes to them. In general, they provide ongoing care on a more deeply personal level than you’d get from other types of doctors. With this comes an enormous range of medical knowledge, skills, and experience.

This unique experience makes them uniquely valuable—absolutely indispensable in their community and the health care industry as a whole. Their work benefits all of us through better diagnoses, better research, and lowered health care costs for patients.

And all this only scratches the surface of the vitally important role and value of family physicians in health care. To learn more about what family doctors do and how essential they are to the community, the world, and health care in general, keep reading. 

What is a Family Physician?

Many specialists/practices focus on treating specific conditions, such as diseases or sports injuries. Family doctors differ in that they focus on treating people.

That is, family practice is very personal. It is centered on the individual: their medical history, lifestyle, home life, mental state, etc. They provide ongoing care based on a long-established personal relationship with each patient.

When meeting with a patient, family doctors consider more than the specific issue the patient brings up that day. They take into account all that they know about the patient. This includes their entire medical history and any current treatments they are receiving.

Thus, family medicine is the most comprehensive approach to treating each individual. Now, here’s a more detailed look at certain aspects of the family doctor’s role in health care.

Comprehensive Care Management

A family doctor may not provide all the care their patient needs. But they’re essential for coordinating their treatment plan.

Family doctors understand that certain treatments are better left to specialists. In fact, many of their patients have complex problems that require care from multiple specialists.

But only a family doctor will manage these various treatments as one complete treatment plan. They will track and monitor the progress of all the care the patient is receiving.

This results in more organized and effective care overall. It also prevents patients from receiving treatment that hinders other treatments they’re receiving.

Linking Different Fields of Medicine

Medical specialists operate only within their specific realm of expertise. But family practice doctors help each patient with any problem they’re having. And they coordinate each patient’s entire treatment plan, incorporating as many fields of specialty treatment as are needed.

In this way, family doctors act as a link that connects all fields of medicine. For example, a physical therapist could be working to correct a patient’s gait after an injury. They may not know what affect a chiropractic adjustment will have on the patient’s gait problem/treatment because chiropractics are outside their realm of practice.

That’s where family doctors come in. Their wide range of experience includes many cases involving multiple fields of medicine.

And, even if they don’t know the exact solution, they’re connected with many specialists in the community. They can refer patients to the correct specialist if they are unable to solve the problem on their own.

Your Health Care Advocate

We all know how hard it can be for patients to get the care they need. Reasons for this range from diagnosis difficulties to health insurance limitations.

Family physicians act as an intermediary to eliminate these problems. They are your health care advocate, perfectly positioned to get you to the care you need.

Your family doctor knows your medical history better than anyone. This makes them extremely effective in diagnosing problems and prescribing treatment. And if money or insurance is the problem, they’ll help you find a solution to this as well.

Reduced Hospital Admissions/Readmissions

As we said, due to their experience, family doctors are very accurate in their diagnoses. This results in fewer admissions and readmissions of their patients to the hospital.

That, in turn, frees up valuable hospital resources to be used to help others who are in need of emergency care. It also saves patients from racking up expensive hospital bills.

Ongoing Personal Care

Going to the same trusted family physician for all of your problems means never having to start from scratch. Each year that you receive treatment from them is a whole year that they’ve invested in caring for you.

One of the biggest challenges in providing proper health care is the lack of information. Many times, a diagnosis would be obvious if not for some specific information the doctor is missing.

For example, when doctors treat a patient for the first time, they have little knowledge of the patient’s medical history. So, they rely on a series of tests or questions to gain information about the patient. 

Because of this, certain, difficult health problems can take years to diagnose. And each time you bring these problems to a different doctor, the counter resets.

It’s better to rely on a single-family physician with years of experience already invested in you. They already have more information on you than any other doctor. Thus, they have a head start in treating any present or future problems you experience.

Community Health Care Leaders

When a crisis like the COVID-19 outbreak happens, where can people turn for help? They need someone to look to for health care advice and precautionary instruction.

In these situations, family doctors are the top medical experts to put your trust in. Not only do they know medicine, but they also know the health trends of their communities.

Plus, they deal with more unique health care situations on a daily basis than any other type of doctor. These include patients with complex and co-occurring health issues.

This varied and complex experience makes them very adaptable. Thus, they quickly devise effective medical solutions in unprecedented health crises.

Again, everyone is in need of care during times of health crisis. But only your family physician will give you the personal, community-based care you need.

County leaders and government officials also look first to family doctors for advice. Their expertise will determine precautionary measures and other policies during a health crisis.

Shepherding Communities into New Eras of Medicine

Heading up advancements in medical technology is another important function of family physicians. As health care evolves and new treatments are introduced, leaders are needed to implement these changes.

Because of their experience, position, and involvement in the community, family doctors are the most qualified health care professionals to do this. They can determine, on a case-by-case basis, how and on whom to use these treatments.

Invaluable Research

Since each family physician is focused on their own community, they each get a unique glimpse into the science of health care. Thus, each community is like a separate, isolated test group for medical study.

The data each community provides through family medicine can then be compared against the others. This is an invaluable tool for understanding medical science. Such data is necessary for advancing health care technology and treatments.

Passing the Torch

When family physicians retire, their vital contribution to the health of their community doesn’t retire with them. They pass on the knowledge they’ve gained so new physicians can continue their work. This is the only way to keep the health of a community strong generation after generation.

Studies show that mortality rates are higher and life expectancies shorter in counties with fewer family doctors. That’s why it’s so important for family physicians to train the next generation of doctors. It reduces the amount of untimely and unnecessary death in the community.

Furthermore, these new physicians will continue the research started by those before them. This is another unique and indispensable research tool. It can provide organized, long-term data of patients/conditions, ranging even from the birth of a patient to their death.

Family Doctors Care

When you visit your family physician, he/she doesn’t only strengthen your health. His or her work strengthens the health of your entire community. And, it provides invaluable research for the advancement of medical science.

These devoted caregivers are changing the world for the better, one patient at a time. So, show them your very heartfelt appreciation and care, just as they care for you. The next time you visit your family doctor, be sure to tell them, “Thank you.”

We have plenty more health care tips and information like this on our blog. Check our blog for pain management techniques, industry news, and more. Now, read these 6 Effective Non-Opioid Methods For Managing Chronic Pain.

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We are providing Telehealth appointments (e.g. telephone consults or virtual video consults) for all patients. Please call us to book or visit our website to book with your MyHealthAccess account. Telehealth visits can be particularly useful if you have travelled recently, you are self-isolating, you are a high risk patient (i.e. over 70, chronic health issues), have no need for physical examination, or if repeat prescriptions are needed. 

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