For many families, taking the children to the doctor means taking them to a pediatrician. Usually, this means a completely different medical center than the one the parents visit. However, there is another option. A doctor who practices family medicine works with infants, children, teenagers and adults. At a family medical center such as Herrera Medical Group in Lewisville, TX, the whole family can work with the same group of doctors.
What Is Family Medicine?
Some doctors specialize in working with people in certain stages of life. An obstetrician works with women when they are pregnant and when they give birth. A pediatrician works with children from birth through age 18, and sometimes through age 21. An internist can work with anyone over the age of 18. A doctor who specializes in working with senior citizens is a geriatrician.
Family medicine is practiced by a doctor who can treat people of all ages. During their residencies, family doctors complete rotations in different specialties. They are able to provide a variety of services for their patients.
While an internist sees only adults, internal medicine refers to the branch of medicine that involves diagnosing and treating illnesses. A family doctor can see any member of the family when they are ill or have medical issues. This includes anything from a respiratory illness, to the chicken pox, to high blood pressure.
The family doctor is often the first stop when someone in the family is experiencing a more complex issue. If someone is struggling with substance abuse or believes they may have a mental health condition, the family doctor can help. They can discuss the problem, treat the person’s immediate needs, and possibly refer them to a specialist if needed.
Preventive medicine deals with health care for people who are not currently ill. Infants and children often visit doctors for preventive care. They need to see their doctor at least yearly for checkups. Infants and children also need various vaccines throughout their lives.
Adults should get regular checkups as well. While those under thirty only need a checkup every two to three years, people thirty and over should get an annual physical exam. Although adults don’t need as many vaccines as children, a family doctor can provide the shots they do need.
Preventive medicine also includes screening people for any possible diseases and conditions and talking with them about their health. A family doctor may discuss the health hazards of smoking with an adult who smokes. They may speak to parents about how to feed their children and what developmental milestones to look for.
Another aspect of family medicine is pain management. This involves people who have chronic pain. There are many different treatments for pain. A family doctor will be well-educated in the options and can discuss them with the patient.
Why Choose Family Medicine?
It is sometimes assumed that children should visit a pediatrician while adults should visit an internist. Why choose a family doctor instead? There are several great reasons to think about.
If one person in a family gets ill, another family member often catches it. If a child is ill, the first family member to catch it is usually the parent who is caring for the child. Typically, the parent would take the child to their pediatrician for treatment but leave their own illness untreated. This may seem like a better option than dragging the child to a second doctor’s office to wait while the parent is seen.
When you have a family doctor, both parent and child can be seen at the same location. They may even be able to share an appointment. This saves time, money, and hassle.
A family doctor gets to know everyone in the family. This gives the doctor a better understanding of health conditions that run in the family. They may notice that several family members struggle with their weight and determine whether it is related to a medical issue or a lifestyle issue. If the parents have substance abuse issues, have been ill, or are dealing with other serious issues, the family doctor can watch for signs of stress in the children.
A family doctor may even see multiple generations of the same family. This can be helpful for adults who are getting older. A doctor may see someone’s elderly parent for a health condition. Then, they can be better prepared to spot early signs of the same health condition in the middle-aged adult.
Children are required to be seen by either a pediatrician or a family doctor until they are at least eighteen. The pediatrician is usually fine when children are young. But when they become adolescents and teenagers, they may be unhappy about having to sit in a waiting room surrounded by much younger children. Even if they are comfortable seeing a pediatrician, teens eventually have to switch to a new doctor.
With a family doctor, there is no transition. An infant can become a patient at a family medicine practice and continue being a patient there throughout their life. Some teenagers and adolescents may be more likely to be honest with a family doctor they’ve been seeing since childhood rather than with an internist they’ve just met.
Similarly, when an adult reaches the age of 65, they often think about switching to a geriatrician. With a family doctor, there is no need to switch. The family doctor is well-educated in geriatric medicine and can continue treating the patient. This means that older adults do not have to give up their relationship with a doctor who they feel comfortable with.
A doctor who has already been treating them for years may be able to catch early symptoms of conditions such as Alzheimer’s. Since the doctor is familiar with the patient, he or she is more likely to notice subtle changes in the patient’s health, appearance or behavior.
Referral to Specialists
A family doctor can treat many conditions. They can also refer a patient to a specialist. For example, if a person has a heart condition, they’ll need to be referred to a cardiologist. A family doctor who knows the patient and their family well can make the best referral.
Questions to Ask a Family Doctor
Choosing a doctor for yourself or your family is a big deal. It is important to find a doctor who is right for you. Here are some questions patients can ask when looking for a prospective doctor.
What Are Your Credentials?
Doctors usually hang up their diplomas and medical licenses for all to see. However, there are other things you should be asking about. You can also do some research to find this information online.
- Medical specialties
- Board certification
- Publications and research
- Honors and awards
- Malpractice and disciplinary actions
How Long Have You Been In Practice?
Patients should find out not only the total number of years a doctor has been practicing but how long he’s been at his current location. If a doctor has moved to different locations or facilities, it may mean he or she was searching for the best fit. It could also mean that something went wrong at one of the former locations that caused him to leave.
How Long Will You Continue Practicing?
If you want to have a family doctor so that you can have continuity of care for many years, you won’t want to see a doctor who is about to retire. If the doctor seems older, you may want to ask about his or her plans for retirement. You can also find out whether they have a plan in place to transition their patients to a new doctor.
What Is Your Child Care Philosophy?
This one is only really important for those who have children. When you have questions about your child’s development, you’ll want your doctor to have a philosophy that goes hand-in-hand with yours. Ask them about their views on issues such as breastfeeding, circumcision, sleep training, discipline, and vaccines.
Do You Have Experience With My Health Issues?
If you or someone in your family has a health condition, ask about the doctor’s experience with that condition. Do they have a good understanding of the needs of a patient with this health condition? Do they keep up with the latest treatment methods?
What Is Your Communication Style?
Some doctors prefer a brisk visit with the patient in order to see as many people as possible. Other doctors spend more time with patients, encouraging them to ask questions and share information. Some doctors may feel that it is the patient’s job to listen to them. Other doctors are interested in the patient’s preferences and opinions. Some doctors can be reached by phone during office hours, while others have their staff members handle all phone calls. Make sure that your doctor’s communication style works well with your family.
Will We See the Same Doctor for Every Visit?
If the doctor is part of a group practice, he or she may share patients with others. A patient who makes an appointment might be asked which doctor they want to see that day, or they may be assigned a doctor according to what day their appointment falls on. Is it important to you to see the same doctor each time you visit? Do you want everyone in your family to share one doctor? If so, this is something to ask about.
With Which Hospitals Are You Affiliated?
When you or a family member is in the hospital, it is very helpful if your family doctor is affiliated with it. If you already have a hospital that you prefer to be treated at when the need arises, you should find a doctor who uses that hospital. If it is not important to you, you should still make sure that the hospital the doctor does use is one you feel comfortable being treated at.
Are Labs and X-Rays Sent Out?
Being able to get any labs and X-rays taken care of without leaving the building is a plus. If these aren’t done in the facility, how far will you be expected to travel? How long does it take your doctor to get the results back?
Are Same-Day Visits Possible?
If you or a family member are ill or injured, you may not want to wait a day or two to see the doctor. Some doctors leave spaces open for same-day appointments. Some may even have walk-in hours.
A doctor who practices family medicine can care for your whole family. Having a doctor you can rely on for the long run can give you peace of mind. To find out more about family medicine and whether it is right for you, contact Herrera Medical Group in Lewisville, TX.