General practitioners are family doctors who focus on your medical well-being. Family medicine includes a comprehensive and holistic approach to health and illness. General practitioners (GPs) protect the overall health in both adults and children through prevention, diagnosis and treatment. GPs serve your whole family, providing primary care across all ages and genders.
General practitioners provide a wide range of medical care with an emphasis on healthy living and disease prevention. This broad approach allows your doctor to consider the interactions of your whole body system, providing a complete look at your health. General practitioners also bring a personal element into their practices because they nurture long-lasting relationships with their patients. In the course of your routine checkups, your doctor gets to know you and your health history.
Good Options for Continued Health
General practitioners can treat chronic conditions that require long-term management and close doctor supervision. Seeing a general practitioner while you’re being treated for a chronic condition is a good idea because of the more holistic approach taken. A GP may catch issues that occur in different systems of your body that a specialist could miss. GPs also are great for treating people with multiple illnesses.
Family doctors or general practitioners aren’t necessarily internists, and they don’t help only adults. General practitioners are trained in pediatrics as well as in internal medicine. They’re expert diagnosticians who not only consider the medical histories of your entire family, but they also have the benefit of knowing and treating multiple members of your family. GPs have received training in:
You get annual checkups with your local Manhattan general practitioner because that physician knows you better than any of your other doctors (if you have any other doctors). Also, regular check-ups with the same general practitioner increase the likelihood that illnesses are caught early, which makes treatment easier. Unlike specialists, a general practitioner evaluates your entire body — among other factors — to determine an accurate diagnosis.
Tests and Diagnoses
Your family doctor relies on a number of tests, as needed, to help diagnose your illness or injury. These diagnostic tests — along with a physical examination and a medical history — provide the hard evidence that your doctor analyzes as part of your diagnosis. Some of these tests include:
- Blood glucose test
- Allergy tests
- Pregnancy test
- Pap smear
- Gynecological exams
- Paternal tests
- Physical exams
- Vision tests
- CT scans
- Drug screening
- Pulmonary function tests
While general practitioners have a more broad focus of study, they can have a subspecialty for which they’ve received additional training. Some of these subspecialties include:
- Adolescent care
- Geriatric conditions
- Hospice and palliative care
- Pain management
- Sleep disorders
- Sports medicine
Even if your general practitioner did study a subspecialty, he still follows a more holistic approach to your diagnosis and treatment than specialist doctors.
Diseases and Conditions
Your general practitioner may be involved in a number of treatments. Some of these conditions include:
- Psychiatric diseases
- Flu and colds
- Heart conditions
- High blood pressure
- Sleep apnea
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Urinary tract infections
- Gynecological conditions
- Endocrinological issues
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Infectious disease
These are just a few of the medical conditions that your general practitioner is able to treat. But there are many more. This comprehensive approach is why your family doctor should be the first doctor you call when you’re ill. And keeping regular annual appointments with your general practitioner helps you catch many of these illnesses early.
Treatments Vary Widely
Many of your interactions with your general practitioner include learning to incorporate healthy living and preventative practices into your daily life. Prevention has been shown to be the best method for keeping your body in good overall health. Through routine visits and a healthy lifestyle, you’ll work with your GP to prevent illness.
Because general practitioners pursue a comprehensive approach to medicine, they often spot trends and patterns in your health. GPs can act as primary care physicians because of their broad knowledge of medicine. If you develop an illness or disease, your general practitioner can provide a number of treatment options. The treatments general practitioners are trained to perform include:
- Prescription medication
- Nutrition advice
- Exercise advice
- Minor surgeries
- Diabetes management
- Asthma management
- Specialist referrals (when needed)
Your GP’s Educational Requirements
All general practitioners complete four years of an undergraduate program, as well as a four-year medical program and a one- or two-year residency program. During medical school, their training focuses on anatomy, biochemistry, medical law, medical ethics, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, physiology and psychology.
General practitioners work both in doctors’ offices and in hospitals. They are required to take a licensing exam at the end of their studies. Some general practitioners decide to become board certified, which requires three years of additional training and examination. They can be board certified by either the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) or the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). Certifications usually hang in the doctor’s office.
Finding a General Practitioner
General practitioners believe that it’s in your best interest to see a single doctor for your primary health care. They’re practiced in providing long-term, personalized health care. Your family doctor is also best situated to catch the early onset of nearly any disease.
Finding a good general practitioner is important because you want a doctor you and your family will see most regularly. When considering a new general practitioner, be sure to check the affiliated organizations, the educational background, and how long the doctor’s been in practice.
Even if your general practitioner recommends you see a specialist for a particular health issue, it’s still important to keep your family doctor involved in the treatment process. A caring GP is the most familiar with your health history and can monitor your overall health better.