Family Practice is the medical specialty which provides continuing, comprehensive health care for the individual and family. It is a specialty in breadth that integrates the biological, clinical and behavioral sciences. The scope of family practice encompasses all ages, both sexes, each organ system and every disease entity.
The family physician functions as the patient’s means of entry into the health care system. The family physician is the physician of first contact in most situations and, as the initial provider, is in a unique position to form a bond with the patient. The family physician evaluates the patient’s total health needs, and provides personal care within one or more fields of medicine. The family physician’s care is comprehensive and not limited by age, sex, organ system or type of problem, be it biological, behavioral, or social. The family physician’s care utilizes knowledge of the patient in the context of the family and the community. This care emphasizes disease prevention and health promotion. The family physician refers the patient when indicated to other sources of care while preserving continuity of care. The family physician’s role as a cost-effective coordinator of the patient’s health services is integral to the care provided. If the patient is hospitalized, this role prevents fragmentation and a lack of coordination of care. This role also allows the family physician to serve as the patient’s advocate in dealing with third-party payers, employers, and others.
In summary, the family physician of today is rooted in the historical generalist tradition. The specialty is three dimensional, combining knowledge and skill with a unique process. The patient-physician relationship in the context of the family is central to this process and distinguishes family practice from other specialties.