What is a Family Doctor?

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Unlike other physicians who specialize in treating one particular organ or disease, your family physician is uniquely trained to care for you as a whole person, regardless of your age or sex. In addition to diagnosing and treating acute and chronic illnesses, your family physician provides routine health screenings and counseling on lifestyle changes in an effort to prevent illnesses before they develop. And, if a health condition arises that requires care from another specialist, your family physician will be there to guide you and to coordinate all aspects of your care. You and your family physician will work together to achieve the best possible outcome in the most cost-effective manner.

Have you ever wished there was one place you could go for all your health concerns?

Family physicians are dedicated to treating the whole person. They treat each organ, every disease, all ages and both genders. The cornerstone of family medicine is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.

Following medical school, family physicians complete a formal three-year residency during which they receive training in several major medical areas and patient populations:

  • Care for all ages from infants to elderly
  • Care for chronic conditions, such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease
  • Ear, nose and throat care
  • Emergency medical care
  • Minor surgical procedures
  • Mental and behavioral health care
  • Bone and joint care
  • Eye care
  • X-rays
  • Care of the urinary system
  • Well-woman care, reproductive counseling, family planning

What is the patient-physician relationship?

Family physicians help you stay healthy with an individualized plan of care. Family physicians know the key to maintaining long-term good health is the patient-physician relationship. To develop your personal treatment plan, your family physician will ask questions about your family health history and lifestyle to determine your health risk factors.

Research shows that people who have an ongoing relationship with a primary care physician have better overall health outcomes, lower death rates and lower total costs of care.

How do family physicians stay on the cutting edge of medicine?

Family physicians adhere to the highest standards of medical care. The American Board of Family Medicine requires recertification by examination every six years. To maintain board certification, family physicians also are required to complete a minimum of 150 hours of continuing medical education every seven to ten years. In addition, family physicians have the support of a national medical association, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The AAFP provides high-quality learning opportunities for family physicians, as well as patient education materials and practice management support.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 05/14
Created: 07/08

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