Rising Importance Of Having A Family Doctor

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 Stay With You For Life

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.

Family Doctors Learn Your History & Your Family History

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.

Family Doctors Do More Than Just Regular Health Check-ups

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. 

When You Need a Specialist, They’ll Find The Best One For You

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.   

Family Doctors Improve Lives While Saving Money

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.

How to reap the benefits of having a family doctor?

  • Make an appointment at least once a year if you are above 25 years of age and once in 6 months if you are above 35 years of age. Do not think that your visits to your personal doctor are a waste of money. In fact, they decrease your healthcare costs in the long run.
  • Do not get laboratory tests done without a doctor’s advice. Do not draw conclusions from the lab investigations. A lab test report is not of much value without the interpretation of the test in the context of your health profile.
  • Understand your doctor’s timings and the appropriate means your doctor can be contacted. Leaving 
  • WhatsApp message is not a professional way of communicating with your doctor. Errors can happen due to missing medical information.
  • Disclose the medical information to your doctor without any inhibitions.
  • Keep your consultation records, lab test reports, and imaging reports safe and in chronological order and take them to your appointments.
  • Do not get medications from medical stores with old prescriptions. Get the renewal of prescriptions from your primary doctor; this is a chance to both review the need for the medications from time to time and stop the medications that are not indicated anymore.
  • After getting discharged from inpatient hospitalization, contact your personal doctor and have a follow up in about 1 week to 10 days so that he/she is kept informed about the major events that happened in your healthcare and review your medical record.
  • Through a good doctor-patient relationship a patient can reap the benefits and the physician can find a purpose, but remember that it takes time to build and earn trust.

Conclusion

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.