Health Care

The Truth About Family Medicine Doctors

Doctor listening to an older woman patient's heart.

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Today’s family medicine doctor, or primary care physician, is a specialist who plays an important role in patients’ lives. In fact, primary care physicians could help your entire family enjoy better health by partnering with you to prevent, diagnose and treat illness, and connect you with specialists when needed. Let’s take a moment to separate myths from facts when it comes to these skilled and knowledgeable physicians.

Myth: Primary Care Physicians Only Offer General Care

Personal physicians are specialists who provide comprehensive care for people of all ages. Unlike a cardiologist or cancer doctor, they don’t specialize in a specific biological system or disease. Instead, they’re trained to care for the whole person.

So, while family medicine doctors do treat common illnesses, such as the flu and seasonal allergies, they also look at the big picture. Over time, they learn a great deal about your health history, personality and family background. Because your family doctor knows you, he or she can tailor your care to your specific needs.

Myth: I Only Need to See My Primary Care Physician When I Have a Health Problem

Primary care physicians are your go-to resource in sickness and in health. That’s why many family physicians recommend an annual check-up for people of all ages. These visits can include screenings and health assessments that help identify problems early.

For example, a test called a urinalysis can detect signs of Type 1 diabetes or infection before symptoms arise. A lipid panel can detect abnormally high cholesterol levels. During your annual visit, the doctor may ask questions about your emotional health to detect signs of depression or talk to you about healthy habits such as exercise or a balanced diet. These conversations help your doctor work with you to treat possible concerns before they get out of control.

Myth: I Can Just Go to Urgent Care When I Feel Sick

Urgent care is a good destination if you need medical attention after hours or when your personal physician can’t see you right away. On the downside, the urgent care team members don’t know you, which can make it more difficult for them to provide personalized care. Plus, the services they provide often can be more expensive than a visit to your family doctor.

So the next time you or a family member needs to see the doctor on short notice, give your primary care physician a call. AdventHealth practices set aside slots for same-day and next-day appointments, and the staff will work hard to fit you in.

Myth: It’s a Waste of Time to See My Personal Physician If I’m Having a Real Medical Problem

Building a relationship with your personal physician helps them to be involved in so many aspects of your health care. They want to hear from you personally if you’re having unusual symptoms. That’s why they may ask you to come in for a visit before they refer you to a specialist. This visit allows them to learn more about what you need, and what the next steps should be.

Family doctors refer people to specialists every day. They’re familiar with other physicians in our community, and will connect you with a specialist who can meet your needs. That can save you time and help avoid the frustration of seeing multiple doctors for the same problem.

Myth: A Family Medicine Doctor Doesn’t Provide Life-Saving Care

Routine health screenings and conversations about healthy habits may not be glamorous, but they do save lives by helping doctors provide preventive care and identify early signs of disease. In addition to possibly saving your life, this kind of expertise can improve your quality of life over the years.

Myth: I Have an OBGYN, so I Don’t Need a Personal Physician

Obstetrician-gynecologists specialize in reproductive health, delivering babies and managing menopause. This kind of care is essential for women at every stage of life.

But when it comes to comprehensive care, there’s no substitute for primary care physicians. After all, an OBGYN doesn’t order important tests such as a colonoscopy, give flu shots or offer guidance on how to quit smoking or lose weight. For that, you need a personal physician who’s familiar with you and your overall health needs.

The Bottom Line

Family medicine doctors provide 80-90% of the medical care their patients need. They’re your partners in health at every stage of life, for every member of your family. Going to your primary care physician for annual check-ups, screenings and immunizations can save you time and money, and help you experience better health.

If you don’t have a primary care physician, AdventHealth can help. Contact the Member Experience Center at Call855-747-7476 to learn more about our primary care and find your family’s partner in whole health today.

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