We’re often asked, “If I’m healthy, why do I need a family doctor?”
Most people recognize the critical role a family doctor plays in the management of ongoing medical conditions (like high blood pressure or diabetes), but it can be difficult for fit and healthy people to understand the importance of having a family physician, especially if they are rarely sick or have no family history of major illnesses. However, it’s vital to remember that your family doctor’s job goes far beyond treating you when you’re not feeling well.
Most important is the continuity of care that is unavailable at walk-in clinics or the emergency room. Put simply, if your doctor knows what’s normal for you, they’re better equipped to determine what’s not normal for you. An established relationship means you’re not rehashing the same details each time you make an appointment and your doctor will be there to follow up with you on an ongoing basis to ensure everything is proceeding as normal. Follow-ups at walk-in clinics or the emergency room often require the patient to recount their medical history for a new doctor that is unfamiliar with their case or concerns.
An emergency room doctor or a physician at a walk-in clinic is also at a disadvantage because they don’t know you on a personal level and therefore may not be able to offer you advice or recommendations that mesh with your lifestyle. A family doctor treats the patient as a whole, not just their physical symptoms. Care can be provided that takes into account a patient’s physical, psychosocial, and emotional well-being, and offers care and recommendations that are tailored to you, your lifestyle and your values.
Whether a patient is young or old, a family doctor’s best tool is preventative medicine, which is rarely discussed during visits to the emergency room or walk-in clinics. This is because although preventative health recommendations are of vital importance, they are hardly the most pressing or urgent of concerns when a patient seeks medical help from an emergency care provider. Family doctors are the primary resource for preventative health care and can help prevent problems before they occur.
Your family doctor can be a trusted health adviser who plays an important role in your physical, emotional, and mental health, so it's important that everyone finds a family doctor that they feel comfortable working with and can rely on for care in the long-term.