Tips For Choosing A Family Doctor

As the medical sciences develop greater specializations, and as medical options expand, so does the need for a reliable and affordable first point of contact for patients. This has renovated the demand for family doctors in recent times. The role of family doctor is somewhat different from that of a specialist, and finding a good family doctor can be a great asset in managing the medical aspects of your family.  
Tips for Choosing a Family Doctor
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In the age of specialization and extremely heightened health awareness, the family doctor becomes even more important as a first contact for all health advice and medical consultation. What matters with a family doctor is not just the technical expertise, but a relationship of trust and reliability. It is important that one knows what she is looking for when searching for a family doctor.

What do you want from a Family Doctor?

The characteristics that you should seek in a family doctor are somewhat different than when you are looking for a Medical specialist.

A family doctor has to be a friend, philosopher

and guide, especially for all matters that pertain to your family's health. As a person, he or she needs to have a one-to-one relationship with your family members and a bond that transcends the boundaries of purely commercial transactions. He needs to be aware of your family's medical history, its financial background as well as your psychological preferences.

In terms of skills, the qualifications and expertise sought from a family doctor is also somewhat different. Most importantly, higher specialization is not a great virtue for the family doctor. A practicing physician, who is dealing with patients with a broader range of ailments is preferable, since he would be in a better place to look at the disease in a comprehensive manner and apart from suggesting remedies for the ailments that he can handle, would be in a position to refer to appropriate specialists for those issues that require such attention.

Qualities that Make a Great Family Doctor

As a physician, let me tell you that not every physician can be fit for being a family doctor. The reason is that in today's world of specialization, all medical graduates begin with a broad based knowledge, but soon they take up one specialization of the other. Some pursue their specialization in the form of a formal course in a Medical School, while others do the same by way of joining an Institute that caters only to a particular group of patients. If one is working as an assistant to a renowned super specialist, one tends to become a specialist of sorts even without a formal degree.

Family physician is a specialty in itself, and is now formally recognized as one, with diplomas and degrees available in this field. However, not all practicing family physicians are likely to have such a formal qualification, for the simple reason that this phenomenon is a somewhat recent one, and the specialization in family medicine is actually little more than the practical experience of whatever is taught in the medical graduation itself. Thus it would be fair to say that a medical graduate with no claim for specialization in another field would be a good candidate for being a family physician, and a formal specialization in this field should be considered a bonus.

A more humane approach is an important virtue in all professions, including medical practitioners. However, it is an absolutely essential ingredient for a successful family doctor. For all practical purposes, he becomes an important member of the broader family, being aware of its limitations, having regular interactions with family members, understanding their psyche and using his medical skills to not only prescribe remedies for them, but also advice them on ways to prevent such illnesses in future.

Choose Carefully

Even though I may sound somewhat strange to you, I would advise you not to choose a very busy and successful physician as your family doctor. The reason for this is that a very busy doctor may not be able to give sufficient priority to your family, neither would he be

likely to have sufficient time and energy to forge a personal bond with your family members. Remember that a family doctor is more than a doctor, and a successful doctor may not have the willingness to take that extra burden. This however, does not mean that you select a doctor whose medical credentials are doubtful. It only means that a too sought after and heavily booked person may not have the time to justify the role of a family doctor.

Similarly, a doctor who is permanently settled in your neighborhood is a far more attractive and convenient option as a family doctor than another person who is more likely to move on in the next couple of years. Obviously, a doctor with his own independent clinic is more likely to continue than another engaged or employed by a hospital or clinic. Frequent change in family doctors can defeat the whole concept of having one at all.

Role of a Family Doctor

The role of a family doctor is to be the first contact point for all health ailments. As a professional with detailed knowledge about the medical history of your family, it is his job to treat as many ailments as he himself can, and for the rest, advise you the best available alternative. He should have reasonable networking with specialists, but should be sensitive enough not to make you run around for every small and sundry occurrence. I would advise you to look out for a doctor who has a reputation of being confident and not making too many references.

Since the family doctor has to be the first point of contact, and since you may have to contact him frequently, the proximity of his workplace to your residence and his ready availability, even if it be on the cell phone, during odd hours of the day are great advantages and should be kept in mind when choosing between possible options.

Costs Matter, So do the Benefits

Needless to say that you can only seek such a doctor who will be allowed as per your affordability, which may be determined in some cases by the insurance or other medical financing plan. It is also needless to point out that the financial dynamics will play an important role in selecting your doctor, including aspects like part payment etc, wherever they may be applicable. But it is still important to remember that costs of treatment go much beyond what you pay to the doctor. In fact, the major costs pertain to hospitalization, pharmaceutical prescriptions and lab tests. You need to study and analyze your insurance plans or other financial supports and take these factors into account while making a decision.

To summarize, you have to ensure that you are able to establish a channel of comfortable communication and sharing with your family doctor, and that he is interested and tends to remember the essence of what all you try to communicate, though, to be fair to you as well your doctor, comfort and understanding do take some time to develop. If you are unable to freely communicate with him or if he is disinterested in your affairs, it may be time to move on and think about a new family doctor.

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