The Family Doctor: The New Face Of Healthcare

Posted on: 7 January 2015


Generations ago, the family doctor was a staple of American life. The kindly older gentleman with his little black bag would come out to the farmhouse if someone was sick. As medicine advanced, doctors became more specialized and a family might have three or four primary care doctors: one for Dad, one for Mom, one for the baby and one for the older child. Lately, however, the advantage of one doctor to treat everyone in the household has become apparent, and the family doctor is back.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, family doctors treat patients of all ages and both genders. In medical school, students can choose family medicine as their specialty, and receive training in obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, internal medicine, community medicine, psychiatry and surgery. They take courses in other areas as well, such as geriatrics, orthopedics, emergency medicine and more.  

Family doctors can provide primary care for patients from newborns to the elderly. They can provide care for chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes and heart disease. They perform minor surgical procedures and emergency care, as well as bone and joint care and ear, nose and throat care.

Family doctors practice in hospitals, urgent care centers, community hospitals and nursing homes, as well as in private practices.  They provide care for under-served populations in rural and urban areas, and are gaining in popularity in other areas as well. The AAFP has over 115,000 members, including doctors, students and residents.  

The goal of family medicine is to provide quality patient care that is also cost-effective. By caring for the whole patient and having regular visits with the entire family, a family physician is often able to prevent health issues, or to identify a potential problem or condition earlier and begin treatment. A family doctor will refer patients to specialists when the need arises, and will follow up to coordinate care.

Choosing a family doctor is easy. Ask friends and family for recommendations in your area. Call the offices of two or three doctors and ask if they take your insurance and if they are taking new patients. You can ask for an appointment with the doctor, to meet them and to be sure that they will answer all your questions and that they have a bedside manner that you like. Once you find the right family doctor, you may have a relationship with them for many years, so be sure to choose one who will answer all your questions and will work with you to keep your family healthy. Talk to your local medical experts, such as those from Selah Medical Center, for more information.