Sunday, 25 June 2017

Family physicians are the need of the hour

Family physicians are the need of the hour With a population of more than a billion (~1.32 billion), India is facing a shortage of doctors, establishment and beds. Presently, India has one doctor for every 1700 people against the WHO recommended norm of 1 doctor for every 1,000 people. There are not enough doctors to take care of the health needs of all. This is the time to bring back the age-old concept of ‘Family physician’. Unlike a General Practitioner, a family physician looked after all the health needs of a family, even many generations of a family, regardless of his/her specialization. They not only treat, but also provide preventive health care to the family being aware of the family history and was the link between the patient and the specialist. Considered a part of the family, he was an integral part of all important family functions and events. All in all, he was a ‘friend, philosopher and guide’ of the family. For good health outcomes, a physician has to be aware of the social determinants of health i.e. the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. It is important to know the socio-economic circumstances of a patient, because these influence outcomes. Family physicians address the social determinants of health. Family physicians also offer several advantages; most important are familiarity, trust, and ease of communication due to a long-lasting relationship. As a result, patient is more likely to open up about his problems and adhere to the treatment prescribed. Family physicians provide a continuum of care at all levels of care, including emergency care. Medicine has become highly specialized today leading to isolation among different specialties as well as from patients. Lack of communication has fostered distrust among patients becoming evident as rising litigations or often as violence against doctors. Hence, instead of destroying the family physician system, re-introducing the ‘traditional concept’ of family physician is the need of the hour. They are the first link in health care delivery for the population and play a pivotal role in preventive health, early diagnosis and timely referral including maintaining health details of all family members. Their services can be used on a retainership basis. One of our demands in the Dilli Chalo Movement on 6th of this month was that we need more than 25,000 additional PG seats in Family Medicine. Dr KK Aggarwal National President IMA & HCFI

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