Family providers treat people of all ages—from birth through adolescence, young adulthood, middle age and end of life. Family providers focus on the person as a whole—diagnosing and managing a wide range of illnesses and conditions. Family providers get to know their patients and their patients’ health histories over many years—which can help them make the best healthcare decisions for their patients. Family providers can be physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
Family providers receive training in many areas of medicine and can treat many illnesses. If more specialized treatment is required, a family provider will often refer the patient to a specialist or surgeon to continue treatment. Once specialized treatment is finished, the patient often returns to his or her family provider for care.
In addition to treating illnesses, family providers focus on keeping their patients healthy. Many are trained in preventive medicine. They believe that keeping the patient healthy is the best medicine. For that reason, family providers encourage healthy behaviors that prevent disease and manage warning signs of illness.
Family providers often encourage patients to be more mindful about how they take care of themselves. Many family providers will provide patients with information about how to prevent illness. They may also help patients set health goals—which might include eating a healthy diet, exercising or quitting tobacco use.
Office visits to family providers may be for immunizations, yearly physicals and health screenings, treatment of colds, flu and common skin conditions and ongoing care for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure and allergies.
During a patient visit, the family provider will review the patient chart and do a thorough examination. Tests may be ordered and completed. Once the family provider reviews all the information, the provider will make a diagnosis and treatment plan, which could include medication, dietary or lifestyle changes or minor surgical procedures. The provider might also refer the patient to a specialist for additional testing or treatment.
Consider the following when choosing a family provider:
- Are you comfortable talking to the provider?
- Does the provider answer your questions?
- Does the provider explain things so that you understand them?
- Did you have enough time to get the answers or information you needed?
Other considerations might include:
- Does the provider’s practice accept your insurance?
- What are the office hours?
- How many providers are part of the practice?
- Does the practice provide you with electronic access to your medical record?
- Does the practice offer case management for wellness promotion, disease prevention and chronic disease management?
- Does the practice offer a team approach to care—including family physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, case managers and other health professionals?
- Does the practice follow up your visit with phone call reminders about your treatment plan?