Family Physicians: Your Partner in Health

Family physicians, who complete training in all areas of medicine, play a central, coordinating role in their patients’ health care and wellness through all stages of life.

Family physicians can diagnose and treat a full range of illnesses, and, when necessary, refer their patients to medical specialists, for instance, cardiologists, urologists, ophthalmologists and orthopedists, to name just a few.

In addition to diagnosing and treating acute illnesses, managing chronic conditions, and performing minor surgeries, family physicians help their patients adopt more healthful lifestyles to lower their risk of illness. For instance, they can advise and help their patients quit smoking, eat a healthier diet and engage in regular physical activity. They also provide their patients routine health screenings to detect health problems in their early, more treatable stages.

Family physicians make it a practice to know their patients. This helps them develop a personal treatment and health management plan that takes into account each patient’s personal and family medical histories as well as lifestyle practices. Family physicians take time to talk with their patients, listen to their concerns, answer questions and provide guidance.

Research, including a study of 4,800 adult patients that was published in the September 2003 edition of Annals of Family Medicine, has shown that patients who establish a relationship with a family physician and maintain regular preventive health care visits, experience lower health care costs. Such patients typically reduce their risk for illness and are better able to manage health conditions that could lead to more serious consequences if left unmonitored and unregulated.

Family physicians help guide their patients through the complicated health care system, directing them to the most appropriate care for their particular circumstance and helping them achieve the most optimal outcome. Family physicians care for the whole patient and have a keen understanding of behavioral health and the interrelatedness of mental, emotional and physical health.

To stay up-to-date on the latest medical treatments and technologies, family physicians complete continuing medical education. To maintain board certification in family medicine, family physicians must complete at least 150 hours of continued medical education every three years.