What is family medicine?

Family medicine is practiced by family physicians who provide care for a wide range of health needs. Unlike internists, who treat only adults, family medicine doctors treat people of all ages—ranging from infants to teens, to adults and seniors. Family physicians fall under the umbrella of primary care, meaning that they treat a wide range of illnesses and injuries.

What health problems does an family medicine doctor treat?

A family physician serves as your first line of defense for illnesses such as sinus infections, fevers, and the flu, as well as for injuries ranging from minor sutures to broken bones. Family doctors also treat conditions occurring over the entire course of your lifetime.

Their whole-body approach to health and wellness typically includes:

  • Annual physicals
  • Health screenings
  • Cold and flu care
  • Care for accidents and injuries
  • Vaccines and immunizations
  • Treatment for chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Women’s health and gynecological services
  • Lifestyle coaching
In short, you can consider a family medical practice your home base for the majority of your family’s healthcare needs.

How does a family medicine doctor differ from an internal medicine doctor?

The three biggest differences between doctors specializing in family medicine and those who specialize in internal medicine lie in who they treat, where they treat them, and the additional training they receive beyond medical school. Internists typically undergo advanced training in the types of acute and chronic diseases most often seen in adult patients, while family medicine doctors may receive additional training in areas such as pediatrics, gynecology, obstetrics, and geriatrics. This training helps them better serve patients across a wide range of age groups.

When should I see a family medicine doctor?

As a primary care doctor, your family medicine doctor will serve as your first touchpoint for general care, including exams, screenings, and preventive care services. This type of doctor will play a key role in assessing your health risks and in educating you about any health concerns you may have, along with the associated risks. Consider your family medicine doctor your lifelong partner for whole-person health.

In fact, your family medicine doctor’s understanding of your entire health background—including knowledge of your pre-existing conditions and current medications—means that he or she can help you make informed decisions that will vitally impact your long-term health.

Find a family physician near me

One of the most important considerations in choosing a family medicine doctor is often the convenience factor. If that’s important to you, you will definitely want to consider a concierge family medical practice. A concierge practice will offer a range of convenient services that are difficult to find in the traditional family practice setting.

For many patients, availability can be a significant factor in selecting the right doctor for their needs. Having a family physician near you, who offers near-immediate appointments, and who can be easily reached after hours, can play a vital role in your health—particularly if you suffer from a chronic health condition.

A family medicine doctor also provides care for your entire family, including children and aging parents. This can be helpful when addressing a variety of issues, ranging from sutures to joint injections. It’s especially helpful if your family has genetic health risks, since this type of doctor will have a better understanding of your entire family’s health history.

Catherine LaRuffa, MD

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