Working in family practice has always been seen as an important role in healthcare, but in recent months, with the arrival of COVID-19 and the controversies surrounding the vaccines, family medicine has been at the heart of everyday people’s access to healthcare.
Being part of a community-based practice is just one of the reasons that family practice is so valuable.
Family Doctor Roles
There are many roles played in the community by both doctors and the family nurse practitioner (FNP), and all of these roles enhance people’s access to healthcare. Some of these roles include:
The Collection and Storage of Medical Records
Family medicine practitioners often need to collect and store medical records for their patients, either because they work at a privately run institution or because they work on an ad-hoc basis within a primary care clinic. These records can be placed in secure storage facilities such as on-site at primary care clinics or centralized storage units.
The Communication of Medical Information to Patients
Family doctors need to have a good understanding of all aspects of a patient’s medical history. They may need to advise patients about changes in medication, changes in diet, conditions linked to lifestyle, or health concerns that were not included in their original consultation. This requires listening to the family and keeping medical records up to date with the patient’s current condition.
Family doctors also need good communication skills so that they can transfer information about their patients’ general medical conditions and personal health history to patients, either by talking directly with them or by referring them for further specialist advice.
In addition to verbal communication skills, family doctors also need to be able to transfer medical information about patients by means other than talking directly with them. For example, they may provide written patient education literature about conditions such as diabetes or asthma that can be stored in a patient’s home.
The Collection and Storage of Medical Samples
Family doctors often need to collect and store biological samples from patients for a number of reasons, including tests for communicable diseases, the detection of viruses, or the diagnosis of infections. This may require an FNP with a higher level of security clearance than normal.
Family Medicine Roles
When it comes to community-based medical practice, you’re likely to see a number of different healthcare roles working cohesively together, such as:
Primary Care Doctor
The role of a primary care doctor cannot be understated and often is the one medical role that the wider community will recognize straight away.
For example, a primary care doctor may be the one to treat diabetes or manage a patient’s asthma, and they will see children through to elderly patients for a range of medical issues.
However, in a community-based practice, a doctor with this role is not the only doctor that a patient is likely to see in their lifetime. In fact, most patients will see doctors in many different disciplines throughout their lives, including:
Family medicine doctors will empathize with the problems that patients may face and they will be able to offer help to seek counseling or antidepressant therapy when necessary.
Community Care Specialists
Working within the community to ensure that proper medical care is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week can be challenging, but it’s also full of the potential to enrich the lives of patients.
Community care specialists are trained in providing short-term medical care for acute illness or injury and they may work in a number of different roles, including an EMT role.
An emergency medical technician (EMT) responds to emergency calls and provides critical care including treatment for heart attacks and transporting patients who need urgent care to the hospital.
Medical Records Administrator
A medical records administrator is the clinical role that manages the records of patients, documents provided by other healthcare providers, and performs administrative tasks including data entry.
This role is an important part of the administrative team for community medicine because it ensures that patients have the best possible healthcare throughout their lives, and it enables a primary care doctor to effectively treat patients by keeping notes and records safe and easily accessible throughout their patient–doctor journey.
Medicare Benefits Administrators
Medicare benefits administrators are skilled at helping you understand your benefits and explaining Medicare rules so that you can take advantage of reduced-cost healthcare options.
Medicare is a federal program for seniors, people with disabilities who are 65 years old or older, and for certain people who are not eligible for Medicaid. It is available to all American citizens over the age of 65 who have paid into the system.
It pays most medical expenses that are covered under Medicare except hospitals, nursing homes, and some other services.
Public Health Practitioners
The role of a public health practitioner has certainly been in the spotlight thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept across the United States and the rest of the world.
A public health practitioner provides a range of support services to help prevent disease outbreaks, treat disease, and promote healthy living. They may include medical professionals such as nurses, paramedics, dieticians, and occupational health professionals/health promoters who work in the community.
They assist you to maintain your overall health by recommending that you take specific precautions to avoid diseases or by providing information on medical tests that can detect diseases at an early stage when it’s easier to treat them.
While not always an ‘official’ role for which a specific degree is sought, school nurses are, regardless, critical parts of community medicine programs and community health.
School nurses work directly with students and families to promote overall health and prevent disease. They keep efficient records on all your children’s immunizations and monitor their growth and development.
They also help you to make sure that your children receive the best medical care as needed, such as emergency care if they develop symptoms of a serious infection such as flu, chickenpox, or tuberculosis.
School nurses play an important part in the education system too because they mentor students through school-age about how to cope with common illnesses including asthma, diabetes, and depression.
Additional Family Medicine Roles
Most family doctors will also have additional roles within their practice.
For example, they may be able to provide hospital emergency medicine cover in an emergency situation or they may be able to send patients to their preferred specialist upon referral.
They may need extra training in surgical techniques and other advanced medical fields such as pain management while treating cancer or HIV/AIDS patients.
How Family Medicine Works In Communities
As far as the wider community is concerned, family medicine refers both to the roles that are highlighted above and to the role that family doctors have in building up trust with patients.
The way in which they do this is very important because of the role they play in encouraging patients to continue having contact with primary care services.
We live in a world where people are used to making decisions about their own healthcare based on the information given to them by their family doctor. Trust is therefore very important.
Family doctors have a great deal of influence on the way in which patients form opinions about their healthcare, and they do so by engaging with their patients every step of the way.
Their feedback on previous visits and medications is vital to ensure that they are getting the best treatment possible from specialists.
The fact that family doctors have this kind of influence means that they can provide a real service to members of the community who would otherwise go without necessary medical care. In turn, this means that people will continue to see their family doctor for regular check-ups throughout their lives.
Community Health As A Common Responsibility
Family medical practice is made up of a team of medical specialists and community health workers who work together to provide comprehensive and effective healthcare. They focus on treating the whole person and providing long-term support.
This care often includes preventative services such as immunizations, screenings for various cancers such as breast cancer, and routine physical check-ups to ensure that you remain healthy.
Your family practice will likely not be where you go when you need access to an emergency medical facility, especially if your situation is life-threatening, but you will be referred back to your family medicine doctor once your symptoms have become non-life-threatening.
What Illnesses And Diseases Do Family Medical Practitioners Look After?
Family doctors also provide healthcare for chronic disease conditions like diabetes mellitus and heart disease and they will operate in a preventative way by identifying the signs of diseases like hypertension early on through regular check-ups. A family doctor will also typically help you to control the symptoms early on in the course of various diseases.
They can perform tests that are used to diagnose conditions like gallstones and osteoporosis, provide preventative care for cancers like breast cancer or prostate cancer, and be responsible for fitting patients with artificial hips and knees.
Family medical practitioners also monitor patients’ responses to treatments after they have been admitted to the hospital.
Family Nurse Practitioners
Nurse practitioners are trained, registered nurses who have received additional training in areas such as family medicine. They are able to diagnose and treat illnesses independently, but they typically work under the supervision of a family doctor or specialist.
They are authorized to provide care for people of all ages and can treat acute illnesses, chronic illnesses, trauma situations, and long-term diseases, but they are most effective when working within a team with other healthcare workers.
Building Up Trust With Patients
In order to have a successful practice, family doctors must have a genuine concern for the well-being of their patients. They deserve a great deal of trust from their patients in return.
Family medical practitioners must ensure that all the information they share with their patients is accurate and always clearly explained to them so that they can make an informed decision about their healthcare.
The same applies when family doctors provide information on treatment plans and recommended prognoses for conditions like cancer or heart disease. Family medical practitioners will often spend a great deal of time explaining all possible outcomes, even those that are unlikely or fatal, to ensure that patients do not misunderstand anything about the likely course of treatment.
Encouraging Good Medical Practice
Family medicine practitioners can also be very influential in the way their patients behave.
Patients are more likely to follow their advice on what they should eat, how much exercise they should take, and whether or not they are taking the right amount of medication if the family medical practitioners have taken the time to get to know them and built up a level of trust and understanding between them.
They can therefore be seen as being gatekeepers to healthcare services because they provide important medical information to their patients that will affect the overall health of the community as a whole.
This is why it is so important that family medicine practitioners have a high level of trust among members of their community because otherwise, patients are unlikely to take their medical advice seriously.
Translating Change To A Wider Population
Family medicine practitioners should also be willing to translate all the changes that are taking place in healthcare into action by making an effort to discuss new treatments, medications, and tests with their patients so they can take advantage of them.
They should encourage patients to be part of their care by asking them about what they think should happen to them medically, the impact it is having on their lifestyle, and what healthcare professionals have said about their condition or treatment options. They can then use this information to develop a treatment plan that is personalized to the needs of every patient.
Family medicine practitioners are trained to treat the whole person through an integrated approach to healthcare. They are able to diagnose and treat illnesses independently, but they typically work under the supervision of a family doctor or specialist.
The need for family medical practitioners has never been so great, and it’s a community of roles that are likely to only grow in the next few decades.