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If you have a medical need — sudden flu symptoms, nagging back pain, an unexpected rash — who would be your first point of contact? A family doctor can be the right answer for most healthcare situations.
Remember the days when the entire family went to one doctor “Family doctor”? He would not only know your health issues, but was also familiar with the entire family, the births, weddings, and demises in the family.
While many diseases and specialties emerged in the last 3 decades, the role of the family doctor is undermined. Because of this important missing link, we are seeing some gaps in healthcare delivery. With the increasing complexity of health care, people often feel lost in multispecialty healthcare settings. They need a person who can address their apprehensions about their health and guide them to take preventive steps to maintain their wellbeing and take timely action during illness. While there is a specialist for every part of the body, specialists are trained to treat complex illnesses and are skilled in the diseases concerning that particular system. Their expertise needs to be utilized optimally by the patients for the conditions that require specialists’ involvement. But how does a person know when to go to a specialist and which specialist is appropriate? That's where the role of a family doctor in our society comes into play.
Family doctors can treat infants, toddlers, children, teenagers, and adults. It is not uncommon for a family medicine doctor to see their patients for decades of their lives. Since these physicians have the skills to treat a wide range of medical conditions, they can be your primary care doctor at any point in your life. This helps you build a great relationship with your physician that will last a lifetime.
When a doctor is able to treat you for years of your life, they develop a keen understanding of you and your medical history. This helps your doctor to make accurate diagnoses and monitor you more closely for any changes or red flags in your health screenings.
In addition to keeping track of your medical history, a family doctor can understand what is happening in their patients’ home lives. For example, if a child’s parent just lost their job, the physician can accurately assess the child’s stress and anxiety.
While family medicine doctors perform your yearly check-ups, they also are there to help you navigate chronic medical issues such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and arthritis. They can also treat your acute medical conditions like injuries and many infections, help you through stressful times, and keep you well throughout.
Sometimes issues arise that require consultation with or care from a specialist. These can include serious issues like heart disease and cancer. When you or someone in your family develops one of these conditions, your family physician can find someone who fits your exact needs and personality.
It should come as no surprise that consulting the family doctors, saves money for individuals and for the healthcare system. In areas of the country where there are more primary care doctors per person, people are less likely to be hospitalized and death rates for cancer, heart disease, and stroke are lower. This was also proven by a study that showed that a 23% increase in primary care spending resulted in an 18% reduction in overall healthcare spending. A primary care-based system costs less because patients experience better access, fewer hospitalizations, less duplication, and more coordinated care. Finding a family doctor for your family’s medical needs could save you and your country money, and more importantly, improve the health of your family.
Many people are realizing the instrumental role a physician plays to guide, handhold, and assure the patients in today’s healthcare systems. In an increasingly complex health care system, it is even more important than before to have a primary care physician who knows about your health conditions, your lifestyle, and your sensitivities about seeking healthcare so that they can guide you better for wellness and help you make some difficult decisions in sickness.
Western healthcare systems recognized the importance of having a primary physician for every person in his/her healthcare journey, to cut health care costs, from unnecessary diagnostic procedures, and for continuity of care. Many healthcare systems in the world have made it mandatory for a referral from a physician for specialist consultation and emphasize keeping the physician informed regarding every hospitalization and important touchpoints of the person in the health care journey.