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Family Practice Definitions
A family or general practice doctor cares for the health needs of people of all ages and genders. Unless you need to see a specialist, when you go to the doctor's office you will generally be seeing a family practice physician. The following are some terms you will come across when going to the doctor's office.
Clinic – A medical health center that is dedicated to the care of outpatients, those who do not need hospital care. Most family care practices offer the same services as clinics.
Appointment – To meet with a family doctor or nurse practitioner you will need to set up a date and time with their office, as most practices discourage walk-ins. If you are sick, however, you can usually make an appointment to see the doctor that day.
Health Insurance – Insurance that covers the cost of treatment for illness or injury. While making an appointment to see the doctor, confirm that they do accept your insurance. Most insurances will also provide you a list of family and general practice doctors you can use.
Exam – Family doctors are licensed to provide tests to diagnose illness or health. While most simple tests can be done within the practice, such as blood and urine tests, some medical conditions may need referral to see a specialist.
If you or a family member is sick, generally you will see a doctor at his or her office. Whether you go to a general medical practice or a family physician is up to your preference. The terms used to be synonymous in the health profession, but they are no longer the same.
After World War II, medical sub specialties became more popular and many physicians left general practice. It was thought that four years of undergraduate school, four years of medical school, and one year of internship was not enough training to properly practice medicine. Three year residency programs were added for additional training and to allow candidates to take board certification exams.
General health practitioners still exist to some degree, but they are usually referred to as internal medicine. Family doctors are trained to treat people of all ages and usually serve as primary care physicians at their clinics. They often have a staff or nurses available to help gather information and perform basic tests including temperature and blood pressure, though the formal diagnosis is always performed by the doctor. If a patient infected with bacteria, doctors will prescribe antibiotics, but will generally tell you to gather over the counter medications for a virus, like the flu. They'll also know whether the patient needs to be sent to another facility for additional testing, like x rays or blood work. It's common to need an appointment in order to see the physician at his or her center and though insurance isn't always necessary, it does severely reduce costs for the patient.