Many people assume that family care physicians and primary care physicians are the same thing. So if you are one of these people, you may be surprised to learn that, unless your primary care physician is a general practitioner, also called a family doctor, he or she may not take your children or spouse as patients. Even if you are single or childless now, you may want to find a good family care physician as your primary care doctor now who will care for your entire family when the time comes.
What's the difference between family care physicians and primary care physicians?
Family care physicians can be your primary care physician, but they are not the only doctors that serve as primary care providers.
- Family Care Physician: Often referred to as the family doctor or general practitioner, these doctors complete rigorous training in everything from pediatrics and obstetrics to gerontology. Their goal is to treat the whole person and become the health care provider for the entire family. Family doctors often provide prenatal care for women while they are pregnant, deliver the baby and then provide pediatric care for the baby after it is born. Likewise, family care physicians treat you through all stages and ages from young adulthood to old age. Family care physicians can diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions, including mental health issues.
- Primary Care Physician: The term primary care physician is often associated with medical insurance and denotes the doctor that provides your primary health care. The primary care physician maintains your medical records and treats you when you are ill or need medical care. If you go to the hospital or have medical tests performed, the results will be sent to your primary care doctor. Pediatricians, obstetricians and gynecologists, doctors of internal medicine and family doctors can all serve as primary care physicians.
Why should you have a family doctor?
A family doctor treats everyone in the family regardless of age or gender. He or she gets to know the entire family, which means he or she understands your lifestyle and family life and how that may impact your health. The doctor also knows your family history which often proves useful in treating patients. A family doctor also automatically accepts your children as new patients when they are born and will often accept new in-laws when one of your children gets married.
Your family doctor becomes the central figure in your family's healthcare and maintains the records of all family members. This means you make all your appointments through one office, make payments to the same office and get to know the office staff. If you need copies of records or documentation of an injury, your family care office can access the information easily. A family doctor can also treat nearly an illness or injury that arises for any member of the family. This means more streamlined appointments, fewer visits to specialists and less travel to various appointments.
How do you find a family doctor?
Family doctors typically advertise their services as "family care," but they may be listed as general practitioners in some directories. The American Board of Family Medicine provides a directory of family medicine doctors that can be searched by location or by the doctor's name. Other options for finding a family doctor are to talk to friends and neighbors and ask for recommendations. Be sure to ask them why they like their family doctor to gain more information to make a decision. Beware of those who tell you the doctor is "nice" or use other vague terms to describe the person. While being nice may be an important trait, you need a doctor who is respectable, trustworthy and knowledgeable.
Finding a family doctor now, even if you are single and childless, will eliminate the need to switch doctors later if you get married or have children. A family doctor, such as Tomas J Friedrich, M.D., can serve you well now and will be there for your family if you need him or her .