Family physicians form an essential link of the healthcare chain. However, in recent times, their role has unfortunately been undervalued. This blog emphasizes the importance of family physicians and explains how the society as a whole benefits thanks to them.
When a sudden medical issue arises, like a minor injury or a rash on the skin, people are often confused about which doctor to consult. During times like these, a family physician would be the best person to approach.
We are all familiar with the term family physician. In earlier days, every family would have a family doctor. The family physician would be the first point of contact for medical doubts and problems. The family physician would also be on familiar terms with the whole family and the family too would feel comfortable approaching their family physician.
But in the past few decades, with the emergence of new specialties, the important role a family doctor plays has been overlooked resulting in a health care gap with many patients not detecting incipient problems. This problem and many others can be addressed by having a family doctor.
Understanding a Family Physician’s Role
- A family physician unlike other doctors is not restricted by gender, age group or specializations.
- A family physician is a doctor who can provide comprehensive care for the entire family.
- A family physician is also the person who will refer the patient to the right specialist if there is a need to do so.
- Family physicians can be found working in multi-specialty hospitals or in private clinics.
- Many also provide care in areas of limited resources.
- Family physicians are a breed of doctors who combine health care knowledge with a familial relationship and are an invaluable part of the healthcare chain.
The Many Benefits a Family Physician Provides
A family doctor is the best single point of contact when a medical condition arises unless it is something which demands emergency care. Discussed below are the reasons why every family needs a family physician.
- As family physicians are known to the family for a long duration, they are familiar with important medical facts like the history of the patient (as well as the inherited conditions in the family), the medications he is on, the medical conditions he suffers from, etc.
- This allows early detection of incipient problems, accurate diagnosis and early treatment.
- A family physician is also one who can guide the entire family on preventive care.
- Be it immunization doubts or long-term care for chronic conditions, a family physician is the best person to approach.
- A family physician can also suggest lifestyle modifications to prevent or manage a condition.
One Person for the Whole Family
- From the toddlers in the family to the senior citizens, a family physician can provide primary care for all.
- A family physician is available and accessible unlike specialty doctors who might not always be reachable to patients.
- Quite a few times patients do not know whom to approach when a medical condition arises.
- When faced with vague symptoms and confusion about which specialist to approach, a consult with a family physician will set patients on the right path.
- Family physicians’ role is not limited to directing patients to the right specialist alone.
- They can also help manage conditions like diabetes, arthritis, injuries, etc.
The Society Benefits
Other than the above-mentioned benefits a family gains from a family physician, there is also the bigger picture to consider.
- In India, people in rural areas do not have proper access to healthcare due to a number of issues – transportation, lack of awareness, social barriers, etc.
- As a result, they delay getting medical care.
- Care is sought only when the problem becomes too big to ignore.
- By this time, the treatment involved is more complex and as a result the spendings on healthcare are also high.
- This is a scenario in which family physicians can play a key role.
- Since the comfort level with family physicians is more and family physicians are also more accessible, patients get their problems addressed in time when treatment is simpler and the cost is lower.
- By focusing on primary care, family physicians promote emphasis on healthy living and disease prevention.
A society that uses the services of a family physician reaps the following benefits:
- The infant mortality rate reduces.
- Children are born with a healthier birth weight.
- The immunization rate shows improvement.
- The money spent on healthcare reduces.
- Elders are healthier and live longer.
A Family Physician’s Responsibilities
- A family physician usually starts off by checking the patient’s vital signs – blood pressure, temperature, pulse, etc.
- The patient’s medical and family history is recorded. Utmost confidentiality is maintained.
- Family physicians can also treat illnesses and injuries by ordering tests, prescribing medication and developing treatment protocols.
- The family physician will keep an eye on the patient’s sugar levels and will probably be the first person to notice a tendency towards diabetes.
- If the patient is pre-diabetic, the family physician will provide guidance on lifestyle modifications like diet, exercise, etc. to prevent the condition. The family physician might also refer the patient to specialists for further treatment.
- Family physicians will monitor children’s development and help detect any developmental issues.
- They also handle women’s health issues and advice on any cancer screenings that need to be done.
- Family physicians play a huge role in promoting health awareness among their patients. They give them appropriate advice and bust common health myths.
- Family physicians are a necessary part of the healthcare chain and play an important role in universal health coverage.
- By emphasizing continuity of care, family physicians ensure patient satisfaction and reduced healthcare costs.
- Family physicians promote a patient-centric care model which takes patients’ needs into account and also involves them while taking decisions regarding their health. Thanks to them, the quality of life for many families has improved greatly over the years.